Charts: Challenging the Myth That Guns Stop Crime


One of the gun lobby’s favorite talking points is that America’s arsenal of 300 million civilian firearms makes us safer by preventing millions of crimes. This contentious idea has taken fire as of late for relying on bogus stats and ignoring that most criminal shootings involve people who know each other, not gun-toting homeowners and midnight intruders. A new report from Violence Policy Center shoots even more holes in the argument that a well-armed society is a safer society.

The report finds that less than 3 percent of gun-related homicides are committed in self-defense (mouse over charts for the raw numbers):

The gun lobby often claims that firearms are used for self-defense an estimated 2.5 million times a year. But according to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, the actual number is just a fraction of that:

Guns are used for self defense (both successfully and unsuccessfully) by less than 1 percent of all violent crime victims:

The typical gun is more likely to be stolen than to be used in an attempt to stop a crime:

*Average per year, 2007-2011 / **Average per year, 2005-2010

In another twist on the self-defense argument, the NRA likes to claim that women in particular need guns to guard against bullies and rapists. But crime statistics unearthed by the Violence Policy Center indicate that only about 10 percent of those who shoot people in self defense are women:

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