Anti-gunners Misfire Again Trying to Debunk the Benefits of Guns in Self-Defense
by Erich Pratt

In October of last year, a North Carolina man used a handgun to stop three armed invaders who were beating his wife and attempting to rape his granddaughter.  The home defender shot all three of the thugs, killing one of them.

In July, a doctor prevented a mass shooting at a hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, when he used his concealed firearm to stop a gunman.  Police said that had it not been for the armed doctor, the perpetrator would have gone “out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition.”

On New Year’s Eve, a pastor prevented a possible mass shooting at his church -- and saved the lives of several men, women and children -- when he used his firearm to incapacitate a shooter.

All three self-defense shooters were hailed as heroes.  

But none of this matters to anti-gun authors who were published in Politico on January 14.  After all, says the lead author Evan DeFilippis, “Gun owners are far more likely to end up ... accidentally shooting an innocent person or seeing their weapons harm a family member, than be heroes warding off criminals.”

DeFilippis spends more than 2,000 words trying to debunk what he refers to as the myth of self-defense.  But what he really debunks is the notion that anti-gun liberals should attempt to research a subject when they’ve been so blinded by their hatred of firearms.

Most cops believe that good guys with guns save lives

DeFilippis claims it’s a fable that “good guys with guns” are actually able to “defend themselves, their families or society.”

But that’s not what the police in Darby, Pennsylvania, said about the hero doctor who saved countless lives.  Nor is it what 80 percent of police believe -- given that the overwhelming majority of cops state that the way to reduce casualties in mass shootings is to allow citizens to carry firearms concealed. 

Regardless, says DeFilippis, gun owners are “aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns.”

That is an astounding claim.  Forget about blaming the actual criminals who illegally purchase or steal their weapons to use them in crimes.  No, it’s the law-abiding gun owners’ fault!

This is one of the gun controllers’ frequent screeds.  Guns don’t stop crime; they simply help to supply criminals with guns that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.

Perhaps DeFilippis has not seen the recent National Geographic Channel episode which shows how criminals are skirting California’s draconian gun laws and buying “ghost guns” from Asia which come with fake serial numbers.

We also saw this in France, where Muslim terrorists evaded gun control laws -- ignoring the bans on AK-47s and the ban on carrying firearms in public -- to massacre defenseless citizens.

Gun haters continuously ignore the fact that criminals will always get their hands on firearms, no matter how many prohibitions are in place.

Falsifying the history of gun ownership

Gun banners like Evan DeFilippis frequently attack the Second Amendment itself -- claiming that it doesn’t really protect an individual right.  Or they attack the successful use of guns in self-defense, claiming these events don’t really happen that often.

Sometimes, these anti-gun nuts will even try to sell the public on the most amazing lies, trying to rewrite history before our very eyes.  

Remember Michael Bellesiles, the award-winning “researcher” who, in 2000, supposedly demonstrated that guns weren’t all that common during the days of the frontier?

Columbia University awarded Bellesiles the Bancroft Prize for his book, Arming America.  The liberal media and the disarmament crowd hailed his research. 

The Brady Campaign said that the “meticulous research [by Bellesiles] debunks the mythology propagated by the gun lobby that guns were essential for survival in the early history of the nation.”

There it is again -- that word “myth” which the Brady Bunch so casually throws around.  They love to subvert obvious facts about firearms and label them as myths, in their never-ending attempt to demonize firearms in America.

But despite all the accolades, Bellesiles was stripped of his award after it was revealed he had falsified his research -- the first and only time this award has ever been rescinded!

In their zeal to justify gun control restrictions, the Brady Bunch simply ignored the importance of real “meticulous research” -- a common thread in their attempts to demonize our guns, our history, or our Second Amendment.  

And lest one doubt that honest gun owners are the real victims in DeFilippis’ cross hairs, one only has to look at his website, Armed With Reason, which bills itself as a site providing research in “defense of gun control.”

That is the gun banners’ bottom line.  That is their goal. And this uber-zeal to restrict firearms possession is what leads DeFilippis to begin his article with three accidental shootings, and then make the incredible leap into the illogical abyss: 

What do these [accidental shootings] and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals.

So, in other words, these accidents occur because people believe the “myth” that their guns will be useful in self-defense.  That’s like saying the reason so many doctors are negligently killing their patients is because so many people mistakenly believe that doctors can cure them.

Of course, one could only arrive at that conclusion by completely ignoring all the benefits that doctors provide.  (Obviously they do, despite the fact that doctors negligently kill their patients more than three times more often than guns do.)

Similarly, gun haters like DeFilippis love to use anecdotes of accidental deaths, and not total numbers, because the numbers are so paltry (there were 591 accidental gun deaths in 2011).

Anti-gunners guilty of perpetrating myths themselves

DeFilippis brings out the heavy arsenal against Gary Kleck, who is a professor of criminology at Florida State University.

Gun owners are, of course, very familiar with the Kleck/Gertz study from more than 20 years ago, which has demonstrated the extraordinary number of times that guns are used defensively every year.

But to even mention this study around gun haters is like using garlic on a vampire.  It drives them crazy, and so they have devoted a multitude of studies in attempting to “debunk” it.

Never mind the fact that Gary Kleck was awarded the Michael J. Hindelang Award for his research and contributions in this field of guns, violence and self-defense with guns.

The Hindelang Award is given for the book that makes the most outstanding contribution to criminology.  And Kleck still has the award he received for his book, Point Blank -- unlike the anti-gun falsifier, Michael Bellesiles, who had his award stripped from him.

Of course, DeFilippis doesn’t mention any of this.  Nor does he mention the trouble that some gun control advocates had in responding to Kleck’s study, which shows that guns are used as many as 2.5 million times a year in self-defense.

Although he vigorously disliked this conclusion, criminologist Marvin E. Wolfgang admitted he could not argue with Kleck’s impeccable research and methodology.  

In “A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,” Wolfgang confesses that:

What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz.  The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator. . . . I have to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this article and this research.  Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime?  It is hard to believe.  Yet, it is hard to challenge the data collected.  We do not have contrary evidence.

DeFilippis completely ignores all of this.  And he fails to inform his readers that even the Clinton Justice Department -- through the National Institute of Justice -- later corroborated the general premise of Kleck’s findings when it reported there were as many as 1.5 million defensive users of firearms every year.  

Based upon these two studies, Gun Owners of America has frequently pointed out that guns are used anywhere from 50-80 times more often to save life than to take life.  (This figure comes from contrasting these studies to the roughly 30,000 yearly firearm deaths.)

No doubt, DeFilippis was trying to show the extreme lengths that the “gun lobby” will go to perpetrate this self-defense myth, when he cited GOA’s analysis this way:  “Gun Owners of America states, ‘firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.’”

But what DeFilippis doesn’t tell his readers is that the Obama Administration actually published numbers that are even higher -- even more favorable to gun owners.

Anti-gun liberals surprised to see so many self-defense cases

Slate magazine, which is hardly a bastion of pro-gun thought, reported on “surprising” figures which were released by the Centers for Disease Control under President Obama in 2013.

The bottom line?  The ultra-liberal Slate was forced to admit that “Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively.”

Slate subscribers probably fell out of their chairs when reading these “surprising” statistics.  But to their credit, Slate did not misrepresent the CDC’s findings in their article, “Rethinking Gun Control: Surprising findings from a comprehensive report on gun violence.”

Unlike DeFilippis, Slate was willing to present evidence that runs contrary to its liberal views.

Slate revealed that, according to the CDC, “defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.”

Of course, when one compares a possible 3 million cases of self-defense to 30,000 yearly gun deaths, the good/bad ratio for gun use jumps to 100:1.(1)

Again, DeFilippis mentions none of this, and simply leaves his readers to think that self-defense is just a myth and that the case is now settled.  He even accuses Kleck of “manufacturing statistics.”

Really?  Does DeFilippis know more than the criminological community which bestowed this honor upon Kleck?

Only with extreme arrogance could someone make such a case with a straight face.

When liberals try to torture the survey data

DeFilippis goes from arrogance to sleight-of-hand when he attempts to explain why the Kleck figures can’t really be true.  Why are the survey results so wrong, he says?  

Quite simply, it’s “bias” on the part of the survey respondents ... or people “falsely claim” events that never occurred ... or they “exaggerate facts” … or “fabricate” incidents ... or “extrapolate their findings” from too small a sample.

Get the picture?  You can’t trust survey results because there are inherent problems with the methodology.

But here is where DeFilippis really stumbles.  Because in making this point, he has just attempted to eviscerate the sacred cow of liberalism -- that is, the “holy” art of polling!  

After all, liberals treat polls and surveys as sacrosanct when the results seem to favor their cause -- even if there are several polls that conflict with each other.  (They just use the one that favors their view.)

Take the oft-cited claim that 92% of Americans support universal background checks (UBCs).  There are several surveys that yield conflicting results on this question.

When UBCs were put on the ballot in a VERY liberal state in November of 2014, the actual results were more than 30 points off.  Not only that, Gallup and Pew polls have indicated that a majority of Americans OPPOSE additional gun control laws -- including expanded background checks.

During an MSNBC debate over gun control, Andrea Mitchell cited a poll to support her claim that Americans did not want armed adults protecting children at schools.  But when confronted with contradictory polling data, she simply responded, “Well, it depends on how the question is asked.”

And therein lays the dirty little secret.  Liberals know the inherent problems with polling data, but they still use them to browbeat their opposition into submission.  And when the results of a particular poll don’t give the “proper results,” they simply pass it off as an “outlier” or claim there were methodological problems inherent to the survey.

How ironic that DeFilippis cites such flawed studies to justify his guns-are-more-harmful-than-helpful theory.  Consider the report he cites to supposedly show that guns are used six times more often to intimidate someone in the home than to be used in self-defense.

This was a national study conducted by David Hemenway, an anti-gun researcher that DeFilippis cites quite often.  But how many thousands of Americans justified this little factoid?

According to the study: “Thirteen respondents reported that a gun was displayed against them at home, two reported using a gun in self-defense at home.”

So there’s your six-times figure.  Talk about extrapolating from a small sample!  

So why didn’t DeFilippis use the same standards he employed in criticizing Kleck’s study?  The Hemenway study drew upon a small survey sample.  And the survey respondents who claimed they had been intimidated by guns could have “falsely claimed” events that never occurred ... or “exaggerated facts” ... or “fabricated” incidents.

These are the hypocritical games that anti-gun researchers and writers have been playing for decades.  

The infamous junk scientist: Arthur Kellerman

In 1986, Arthur Kellerman derived a bogus figure which claimed that a gun in the home was 43 times more likely to kill the homeowner than to help him.(2)

But his “study” underscored how easily a researcher can achieve the results he is looking for.  If one uses cards to build a house, then one will have nothing more than a house of cards.  You get what you put into it.

So how did Arthur Kellerman build this study to get the results he was looking for?  He specifically excluded the overwhelming number of self-defense cases from his study.  

Kellerman’s own study said that, “Mortality studies such as ours do not include cases in which burglars or intruders are wounded or frightened away by the use or display of a firearm.”

But by excluding those cases, Kellerman excluded the majority -- over 90% -- of the episodes where Americans use guns in self-defense by simply brandishing their guns or by firing a warning shot.

Until Kellerman himself backed away from this study, anti-gun liberals were using his figures for years to scare Americans into thinking their gun won’t be able to help them.

Gun control a colossal failure

The irony is that DeFilippis avoids, like the plague, the monumental gun control studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Academy of Sciences.  For example:  

* After analyzing 51 studies in 2003 -- including gun and ammunition bans, waiting periods, background checks, trigger lock laws, and much more -- the CDC concluded that the “evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of these [firearms] laws.”(3)

* And the National Academy of Sciences studied the gun control issue in 2004, when it examined 253 journal articles, 99 books, and 43 government publications -- in addition to exploring 80 different gun control laws.  The end result?  The NAS said it could find no link between gun control and lower murder/violence rates.(4)

The ineffectiveness of gun control has been demonstrated time and time again.  Even beyond the studies and polling numbers, the fact is that gun control fails to perform in real life.  

Washington, D.C. and Chicago banned guns in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and quickly become the nation’s murder capitals well into the 1990s.

But when these two cities were forced to repeal their gun laws, after Supreme Court Justices dusted off their copies of the Second Amendment in 2008 and 2010, both D.C. and Chicago subsequently saw their murder rates drop to 45-year lows.

Crime dropped, despite the cries of anti-gun politicians in each city, which predicted that their cities would become more violent, now that guns were legal.

The Brady Bunch just doesn’t get it.

Evan DeFilippis sets out to “debunk” the self-defense myth, but he presents nothing new.  It’s the same old anti-gun screed, where gun control activists claim that guns are too dangerous for lay people to handle.  

But in the end, DeFilippis misfires badly, simply hiding behind skewed studies and flawed polling results.

And even if he was right on everything he said -- which he is most certainly not -- he never even comes close to explaining why the Second Amendment protection against “infringements” of our gun rights should be trumped by the survey data.  Not even close.

Erich Pratt is the Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby that represents more than one million members and activists.


(1) One should note that while the three million figure may well be the outlier, there are roughly a dozen studies which point to hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of yearly self-defense cases with a gun. See Gary Kleck and Don Kates, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control (2001), Chapter 6.

(2) Arthur Kellermann, “Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home,” New England Journal of Medicine (June 12, 1986).

(3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Early Childhood Home Visitation and Firearms Laws," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (October 3, 2003), vol. 52(No. RR-14):14-18.

(4) “Gun Control Doesn’t Reduce Crime, Violence, Say Studies:  National Academy of Sciences, Justice Dept. reports find no benefits to restricting ownership of firearms,” WorldNetDaily (December 30, 2004).

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