The "Hobby" of Self-Defenseby Dr. Joanne Eisen and Dr. Paul Gallant
"There is considerable concensus that robbers armed with guns are less likely to attack and injure, since faced by a gun, their [unarmed] victims are more compliant." (emphasis in original)
-- Excerpt from the British Home Office's submission to the Cullen Inquiry of the Dunblane Massacre
There may be "considerable concensus", but there is certainly no credible evidence to support the premise of the "gun-violence link", that use of a gun in response to criminal attack only escalates the level of violence.
Nonetheless, it has been repeated by firearm-prohibitionists both in Great Britain and in the U.S. for many years.
Perhaps robbers in Great Britain are "gentler and kinder" than their American counterparts, but, at least here in the States, that premise is wrong, and the facts show exactly the opposite: defending oneself with a gun is the safest and surest means of preventing or stopping a violent criminal attack.
One of the foremost researchers on defensive gun use in America is Dr. Gary Kleck, professor at Florida State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The findings of his most recent research, in conjunction with Dr. Marc Gertz, were published in 1995: "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun".
According to Kleck, "it has been argued that resistance by crime victims, especially forceful resistance, is generally useless and even dangerous to the victims...[However, the evidence] does not support the claim as it applies to resistance with a gun."
U.S. Department of Justice data from 1979 through 1985 shows that, for the crimes of robbery and assault, resistance by defenders armed with a gun leads to termination of the incident with the smallest chance of injury to the victim.
Victims resisting robbery with a gun were injured 17.4% of the time. Those who did nothing at all were injured 24.7% of the time. Those who used non-violent resistance, like attempting to run away, were injured 35.9% of the time. And those who resisted with a knife were injured 40.3% of the time. In the case of assault, the injury rates were 12.1%, 27.3%, 25.5%, and 29.5%,
respectively. (See FIG. 1)
And, while 17.4% of those who resisted with a gun in the course of a robbery were injured, overall, Kleck pointed out that this figure includes victims who were FIRST INJURED BEFORE they resorted to using their guns. He estimated that less than 6% of robbery victims were injured AFTER using a gun to resist. Although victim injury data in Kleck's research was not crime-specific, gun defenders were injured in just 5.5% of all incidents reported in his own study.
Kleck's research also showed that 2.5 million or more instances of defensive gun use occur, each year. Although 75% of the incidents in Kleck's study involved the use of a handgun, firearms used for personal protection include all varieties.
While Americans' use of firearms for self-protection is commonplace, our English friends have been conditioned over the years to accept the notion that self-defense with a gun is never acceptable. One of the "General Principles" enumerated in the Labour Party's evidence to the Cullen Inquiry stated:
"...firearm possession is usually justified on the grounds of sport. By definition, sport is a recreational pastime. It seems to us that those who follow a particular hobby are under an overwhelming obligation to ensure that their pursuit does not place the safety of the public at unacceptable risk."
It was inevitable that some day, one of those "sporting" guns would end up hurting or killing an innocent victim.
That day arrived on March 13, 1996, when Thomas Hamilton entered the gymnasium at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland. Armed with 4 lawfully acquired handguns, Hamilton shot 16 children and their teacher to death, before killing himself.
The lesson from Great Britain is clear: if you defend your ownership of firearms on the basis of sporting purposes only, and if you are shamed into forfeiting the right to self-defense by media lies, and lies of the firearm-prohibitionists, you end up losing both.
That's how it happened in Great Britain. It's that simple. Could it happen here? Consider this:
- When firearm-prohibitionist Dr. Arthur Kellermann said that a loaded firearm kept in the home for self-protection is more dangerous to our families than to a criminal intruder, he lied to us. That and other Kellermann lies were shrewdly calculated to frighten us into giving up the right to self-protection with a gun. Many still believe and repeat what Kellerman said.
- When firearm-prohibitionist Dr. Lester Adelson said that "the accessibility of a firearm permits the instantaneous metamorphosis of a law-abiding person into a murderer", he lied to us, as well. Adelson's lie was but one more link in the chain of propaganda telling us that trusting ordinary citizens, like ourselves, with firearm possession is a recipe for certain disaster. Many still believe and repeat what Adelson said.
- By now, all gun-owners should have figured out where Bill Clinton is leading us when he chides "you don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting", and Sarah Brady when she declares "the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes". Many gun-owners still haven't.
A gun will not magically find its way into your hand when you need it most. Nor will that bullet exiting the barrel home in on its intended target, simply by wishing it.
That's the reason why the "shooting sports" are so important, and so fundamental. They may be a good way to have fun, and a great way to teach children about safety and responsibility. But it's all preparation for the day that might come when you can't leave the final resting place of your bullet to desperate wishes and dreams.
To some, it's only a "hobby". But if we don't learn from our British friends before it's too late, we might as well all take up knitting, instead, and hope that our knitting needles are sharp enough, and long enough, to do what a gun could have done, if we'd paid a little more attention, and put up just a little more fight.
Adelson, L; "The Gun and the Sanctity of Human Life; or the Bullet as Pathogen"; Arch Surg 1992; 127: 659-663 [reprint from Pharos, 1980]
Kates, D., Kleck, G.; The Great American Firearm Debate; Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy; San Francisco, 1997; citing Sarah Brady, in the Tampa Tribune, 10/21/93
Kellermann, A.L., Reay, D.T.; "Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearms-Related Deaths in the Home"; NEJM 1986; 314:1557-60
Kleck, G., and Gertz, M.; "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun"; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology; Northwestern University School of Law; Chicago, IL; Vol 86#1, Fall 1995; 150-187
Kleck, G.; Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control; Aldine de Gruyter; NY 1997
Kleck., G.; personal communication; 2/16/99
"The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996"; The Cullen Report, 30 September 1996
About the Authors:
Dr. Joanne D. Eisen is engaged in the private practice of Family Dentistry. She is President, Association of Dentists for Accuracy in Scientific Media (ADASM), a national organization of dentists concerned with preserving the integrity of the professional dental literature, against the politicization which has corrupted America's medical literature.
Dr. Paul Gallant is engaged in the private practice of Family Optometry, Wesley Hills, NY. He is Chairman, Committee for Law-Abiding Gun-Owners, Rockland (LAGR), a 2nd Amendment grassroots group, based in Rockland County, NY.
The authors may be reached at:
P.O. Box 354
Thiells, NY 10984-0354