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Incidence of Civilian Defensive Firearm Use

NCJ Number
D McDowall; B Wiersema
Date Published
22 pages
Based on data obtained from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), these authors estimate that there were 65,000 incidents per year in the period between 1987 and 1990 in which victims used firearms to protect themselves against criminals. These results are much lower than estimates offered by Kleck, who concluded that, in 1980, 1 million victims defended themselves with a gun.
Kleck's estimates were based on a national survey of 1,228 registered voters; 4 percent of the respondents answered that they or a household member had used a handgun protectively within the previous 5 years. These figures were expanded to obtain a national estimate. The NCVS figures included all attempted or completed incidents of victimization and were based on a large and well-documented probability sample of the U.S. The differences between the two estimates suggest that several statistical biases should be considered, namely the NCVS omissions of commercial robberies and unreported crimes, particularly those committed by non- strangers. The NCVS estimates show that, while civilian firearm use should not be disregarded as a form of crime control, the incidence of self-defensive gun use is much lower than commonly assumed. However, the authors note that this research did not address the issues of gun resistance and deterrence. 4 tables, 7 notes, and 31 references