Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Debunks Myths About Defensive Gun Use
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Analysis Debunks Myths About Defensive Gun Use

Washington, D.C. — Every day, 327 people are shot in the United States. Of those, an estimated 117 die and the other 210 are left with lifelong injuries. Yet despite the harsh realities of gun violence, roughly half of Americans believe firearms increase safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. In 2023, survey data found that 72 percent of gun owners cite personal protection as a “major reason” for gun ownership, despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating firearms are not an effective means of self defense.

A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress, written in partnership with GVPedia, debunks the most common myths about defensive gun use and makes an affirmative case for why stronger gun laws, not more guns, make us safer:

  • Fact: Defensive gun use is rare and occurs less often than criminal gun use. Based on National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimates, CAP analysis finds that nine times as many people report being victimized by a person with a gun than being protected by one.
  • Fact: Most defensive gun use cases are actually harmful to society. More than half of all reported defensive gun uses can be categorized as criminal. Research on “stand your ground” (SYG) laws also reveals that in more than half of all fatal defensive gun uses where SYG was invoked, there was clear evidence that the shooter could have safely de-escalated the conflict without using deadly force.
  • Fact: Defensive gun use is no more effective at preventing injury or property loss than other means of self-defense. The difference in injury rates between victims who use a gun defensively and victims who take no action at all is less than 1 percent. In addition, those living with a gun at home are seven times more likely to be shot by their spouse or intimate partner, six times more likely to be intimidated with a weapon than protected by one, three times more likely to die by suicide, and two times more likely to die by homicide.

“The firearms industry reinforces the narrative that guns make society safer through the manipulation of fear, perversion of self-defense, and falsified statistics, weakening the public’s ability to properly inform themselves of the risks associated with gun ownership,” said Allison Jordan, research associate for Gun Violence Prevention at CAP and co-author of the issue brief. “In untangling the myth of defensive gun use, one thing is abundantly clear: If safety is the goal, guns are not the answer.”

“Accurate information is critically important in fighting America’s epidemic of gun violence. Just as important, however, is countering inaccurate information,” said Devin Hughes, founder and president of GVPedia and co-author of the brief. “Until the defensive gun use myth is defeated, Americans will continue buying firearms in the mistaken belief that those guns will make them safer, and gun violence will continue unabated.”

Read the issue brief: “Debunking the ‘Guns Make Us Safer’ Myth” by Allison Jordan, Chandler Hall, and Devin Hughes

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org.

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