Cato Paper Shows How Guns Thwart Crimes and Save Lives


In a new Cato Institute paper, Clayton Cramer and David Burnett review the controversy over how often Americans use guns in self-defense each year. Estimates range from about 100,000 to more than 2 million, and the surveys used to generate the numbers are subject to weaknesses that plausibly lead to undercounting or exaggeration. Cramer and Burnett's contribution, an analysis of defensive gun uses reported in the press during an eight-year period, does not resolve this issue. As they emphasize, the vast majority of defensive gun uses seem to be encounters where brandishing a weapon suffices to interrupt or prevent a crime. When no shots are fired and no one is injured or killed, the incident may not even be reported to the police, let alone be deemed newsworthy. Still, Cramer and Burnett's analysis, based on a randomly drawn sample of nearly 5,000 incidents, sheds light on the details of cases that are considered interesting enough to report in a newspaper.

The most common situation, accounting for 1,227 of 4,669 incidents, was a "home invasion," where intruders try to force their way into a home they know to be occupied. Burglaries were also common, accounting for 488 incidents. In 285 cases, the defender had a concealed carry permit, and most of those incidents occurred in public. There were very few cases where a permit holder became involved in an avoidable dispute that turned deadly because he had a gun—a scenario that figures prominently in arguments against nondiscretionary permit laws. Also contrary to the warnings of gun controllers, victims in this sample were rarely disarmed by their attackers; the reverse happened more than 20 times as often. Criminals took away defenders' guns in 11 out of 4,669 incidents, and the defender ended up dead despite being armed in 36 incidents, less than 1 percent of the time. Cramer and Burnett describe many specific cases (mapped by Cato here) in which a gun prevented robbery, rape, serious injury, or death, illustrating their general point that policy makers need to take these benefits into account instead of focusing exclusively on criminal uses.

Cramer and Burnett note that journalists often seem irrationally hostile to the very idea of armed self-defense, as reflected in a 2009 Miami New Times story:

It was pouring rain just after 1 p.m. Monday, July 20, when a man burst into a Honduran grocery store on NW 36th Street in Miami. A shirt was wrapped around his face as he gripped a black semiautomatic handgun. Twenty-year-old Charles Bell shoved the pistol into the face of a manager behind the counter. Then he demanded the contents of the cash register and cartons of cigarettes in a plastic bag. Next he began herding customers to the back of the small market.

After the store's manger shot and killed the robber, police deemed it a justifiable homicide. The headline on the article: "South Florida Store Clerks Go Vigilante."

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on the Abuse of "Literally"

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  1. cartons of cigarettes

    I knew it.

    Fuck cash, yo, the cigs are worth more, aren’t kept in a safe, and there’s more than $50 of them on the premises.

    Which leads to the next step in cig prohibition: retails sales cause crime, and so must be outlawed.

    1. (whether store employees were able to stop the crime in progress is irrelevant.)

    2. looking for the bilover?—datebi*cO’m— is a site for bisexual and bicurious singles and friends.Here you can find hundreds of thousands of open-minded singles & couples looking to explore their bisexuality.sign up for free.

  2. “Cato Paper Shows How Guns Thwart Crimes and Save Lives.”


    1. Littorally?

        1. You know, I try to make clean, family friendly near-shore joke, and you have to go smut it up.

          Thank you, I don’t know what I was thinking.

      1. Don’t be so shallow.

        1. (slow clap)

          Very nice.

      2. Benthically?

      3. Benthically?

    2. Literarily?

  3. Fun Fact of the Day:

    Was in a bar with Sullum last night as he gave his talk on liquor laws.

    In the conversation afterwards, we were acting like catty bitches about which H&R commenters we hate the most, and he asked me where the “gambol” meme came from.

    Imagine my chagrin as I try to drunkenly explain the WI reign of terror.

    1. BTW the commenter he hates the most rhymes with, “sleazyarch”. I’ll let you figure it out.

      1. I don’t recall naming any particular commenters, although I did have one or two in mind. Episiarch was not one of them. Maybe you’re projecting?

        1. He’s joking, Jacob. Jimbo has a crush on me. Isn’t that right, Jimbo?

          1. Jim likes to put on his diaphanous robe, tuck his penis between his legs and pretend he’s Episiarch. “You wanna fuck me? I’d fuck me.”

            1. Since the surgery, I don’t have to “tuck” a goddamn thing anymore.

              1. That’s right. I guess I was finally able to block all those post-op pics you kept sending me. Thanks for ruining that. Keep your mangina to yourself, brah.

                1. I’ll thank you to begin referring to me as, “Ida”.

            2. Look, NutraSweet, my clitoris is way bigger than yours, so fuck you.

              1. But can you open a beer bottle with it? Ida can, and that’s why hers is the superior clintellect.

            3. ? Wiiiiiild Hooooorses… ?

        2. It was a joke, dear sir. But really I inferred it; I understand that you couldn’t just outright say you hated Epi, so you had to drop hints that I picked up on. It’s OK, I was happy to do it.

          1. Everybody hates Episiarch, but has anyone ever tried to give him a warm fuzzy? Or a hug?

          2. Of course he hates Epi. Everyone hates Epi. Epi hates Epi. It doesn’t need to be said. What are you trying to conceal, Jimbo?

            1. And was it literally hate? I’ve got to think it was.

              1. I literally drank the haterade.

            2. If you don’t hate me, there’s something wrong with you. Literally.

              1. I only hate you to the extent that you are you. When you aren’t you, I don’t hate you at all!

        3. And by the way the talk was excellent; if any of you get a chance to hear him present a topic in the future, I would urge you to do so.

          1. They need to do more stuff in Florida. It’s a big state. Lots of libertarians. Even a couple of Reason people down here. Nice weather, no income tax, strip clubs. . .really, they should be based here.

            1. Which state has the highest number of regulars on the board? KY. And they never come here.

              1. Do you? I find that claim dubious, unless you’re counting yourself fifty times.

              2. You frighten them.

              3. The answer is obviously Ohio. Or Massachusetts.

                1. Me, robc, mad libertarian guy, Jim/Gojira (retired), FrBunny (had to leave board) are the ones I can think of right off the top of my head.

                  But I agree that Ohio could give KY a run for our money.

                  1. Do I really count since I haven’t lived there since I was 15 (though I still support UK basketball)?

                    1. That’s why I designated you retired.

                  2. PA: Tulpa, Fist of Etiquette, db (maybe?), me, others?

                    1. While I actually call home the state of denial, capitlolz l is also in the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And Lady Steigerwald, as well, and she comments often enough to be considered a commenter. And yet no Reasonable events in PA. Also, go Pens.

                    2. And very rare commenter Double D, though I actually live in the state of Worldwide Deployable, currently enjoying shitty weather in Spain.

                  3. There are actually a pretty high number from Florida and Illinois. Watch threads where commenters are talking about local matters in either state.

                  4. I’m guessing MN. Enough About Palin, The Gobbler, and at least a couple of others besides me. WTF happened to Gobby anyway?

              4. I don’t know, I think Texas could give y’all a run for your money.

    2. Talk about burying the lede… Who is hated most, besides Epi?

      1. ProL, obviously.

        1. Collateral damage.

      2. Me! Memememememememememememememememe!!!!!!! IS IT ME?????

        1. What am I, chopped liver?

          Mmmmmmmmmmm. Chopped liver.

          *slobber slobber*

          1. Speaking of liver a few weeks ago I took some chicken livers, soaked them in milk, then a dredge in heavily seasoned flour, back to the milk, back to the flour, into the deep fryer until golden… OMFG they were good! Better than with bacon and onions!

            1. Chicken-fried chicken offal. Mmmmmmm.

            2. I like them warm out of the chicken.

              1. I like them warm out of the chicken.

                I agree that’s good, but hot out of the fryer with a cayenne laced crunch on the outside?

                Damn that’s tasty.

      3. I have been working day and night to be the most hated commenter on here. And this the thanks I get.

        1. Don’t sweat it; somebody threw some hate your way in the first comment on the British healthcare post earlier today.

          1. Makes my heart warm.

            1. I posted a chubby for you in the A.M. Links.

      4. Tony, Schrike, rather?

    3. Damn, I knew there was something I wanted to do last night.

  4. I don’t need a study to “show” that being able to be armed legally is “effective”. It is my right as an individual to defend myself, and fuck you to anyone who says I can’t.

    1. The moral case for freedom is the only case that matters. Fuck utilitarians.

      1. And it’s also awesome that it’s great from a utilitarian standpoint, too. Hoplophobes can go fuck themselves sideways.

        1. Hoplophobe. Great new word for my vocabulary.

          1. No one likes the Greeks.

            1. The Greeks like the Greeks. Well, parts of them.

              1. ‘You want breakfast? Try the diner. You’re obviously into Greek. Get it?’

            2. Blessed are the Greek.

              1. For they shall inherit the German treasury.

                1. I work fifty hours a week at a real job, and I retire at sixty five. Greece comes to my leaders, says give us your money, and we tell them, ‘bugger off, pipsqueeks.’ Except ve don’t. We give it to the lazy shade sitting bastards. Why? World War Two, that is why.

          2. Google dictionary = no definition found

            Had to actually Google it.

        2. Finally, I can now say that reading something on H&R me smarter.

    2. That gun you’re carrying has no valid sporting purpose.

      1. It gives me a sporting chance against some of the animals gamboling around certain parts of Richmond.

    3. Comments like yours, Episiarch, make me wish we could upvote comments on this site.

      On a side note, I like both the moral AND practical cases, though the moral one certainly stands on it’s own.

  5. The fatal flaw in these conclusions, and Sullum’s, is that they’re based on reason and logic. Hurumph. Clearly Tea-Bagging scum! We don’t needing none of that fancy reason and logic stuff when we have the Dreamboat-in-Chief to guide our imbecilic minds!


    1. At least until we trade in Hope for Belief.

  6. OT: Has NPR shut the fuck up about the Komen foundation cutting off $12.97 of funding from Planned Parenthood? I got so sick of that story yesterday that I refused to even turn on NPR today.

    1. Komen recanted. All is well with the world again. Harmony is restored, global temperatures are stabilizing, male gazes are averting.

      1. If I stare at a beautiful girl’s ass and picture me and her doing unspeakable things in a Jacuzzi, am I sexist?

        1. Only if she or another woman see you do it. See, their reality is purely observer-based, with the only possible observer being a woman. We call this femdom weirdness.

          1. Hey, if two hot lesbians starting groping each other and gettin’ naked, I’ll grab some popcorn and watch. It’s certainly secondary in WIN to them not being lesbians and inviting ME into the bathtub, but I’ll take what I can get. And they can be Marxist-Leninists for all I care.

            1. Fuck, need more sleep. *start

            2. It’s okay if they can’t see you. Lesbian porn would be okay, for instance, if men didn’t dominate porn filmmaking.

              1. Have you ever seen lesbian porn made by lesbians?

                1. This isn’t about quality; it’s about social equity.

                  1. This isn’t about quality; it’s about social equity.

                    And pubic hair patches the size of bicycle seats.

                2. Have you ever seen lesbian porn made by lesbians?

                  But could such a thing even exist?

                  I got onto the topic of girl-on-girl porn with a lesbian once, and she assured me that so-called lesbian porn is nothing more than a man’s conception of how lesbians fuck, and that the reality is much different, and vastly more subdued. Also, I’ve read that most lesbian couples have sex infrequently, that it’s mostly hand-holding and crocheting with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background . . . real Lilith Fair type of stuff, and not the hot scissors action that you and I think of when we daydream about two chicks getting it on.

                  1. that it’s mostly hand-holding and crocheting with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background . . . real Lilith Fair type of stuff, and not the hot scissors action that you and I think of when we daydream about two chicks getting it on.

                    It’s the relationship all women wish they had with their husbands.

        2. If I stare at a beautiful girl’s ass and picture me and her doing unspeakable things in a Jacuzzi, am I sexist?

          No, but the fact that you care what women think makes you a faggot. You would probably even ask her if it was good for her afterwards, Phil Donahue.

      2. . All is well with the world again. Harmony is restored, global temperatures are stabilizing, male gazes are averting, wombs are being scraped for cash.

    2. Komen foundation apologizes for hating women. Now offers a cash bounty on unborn baby scalps as penance.

      1. Better be a sizable bounty. Nothing makes a better shoe lining than unborn baby scalps, so they already fetch a pretty penny.

  7. Clearly Cato is in thrall to BigGun.

    1. That was a good song.

  8. ..illustrating their general point that policy makers need to take these benefits into account instead of focusing exclusively on criminal uses…

    Never happen. The left will never give in on this issue and will do everything in their power to neuter the second amendment and effectively disarm law abiding citizens in the false name of public safety.

    1. Mindfuck story: I was arguing with a rabid Democrat (from, and I shit you not, San Francisco) about guns, and when I informed him about how violent crime’s plummeted during the period of liberalization of firearms regulation, his reply was that it’s because Democrats were being elected more and more, replacing Republicans, and fixing the capitalist-induced poverty problems, thereby “fixing the crime and stuff”.


      1. Perfect illustration of the mental gymnastics liberals will do to remain true to thier talking points, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

      2. I would’ve robbed and raped him on the spot just to prove otherwise.

        1. The best part was that I was carrying my handgun, and he was very visibly frightened by it.

          It must really suck to be a helpless, dependent turd from San Pelosi.

          1. The best part was that I was carrying my handgun . . .

            I hope you weren’t in San Francisco at the time!

        2. “I’m not gay, but I’m also not opposed to raping a guy on principle.”

      3. I especially like how the Democrats are fixing all the major cities they run.

      4. “Let’s each take an hour long walk through the ghetto, so we can see what was fixed. I’ll carry concealed, you don’t.”

        1. Screw that, I’ll carry open.

  9. With the horrible of history of government through the ages, the idea that only government officials–who are less accountable for their actions than private citizens–should be armed is disturbing. Guns in the hands of private citizens without political cover and limited liability are safer than in the hands of those who can wield them with something close to impunity.

    1. “Close to”? That ship, as they say, sailed a long fucking time ago.

      1. I wanted to leave room in case there’s a small town somewhere in America where that wasn’t true.

        1. Oh, there’s plenty of places. But plenty isn’t nearly enough.

          The scary and enfuriating thing, Pro, is that we’re reaching a point where the genuinely good cops and prosecutors and other agents of government are only good due to their own discretion, and if they decided to stop being good, there’d be nothing in their way.

    2. Well that was the genesis of the second amendment, right? I believe the Founders were well acquainted with the tendency of any government to acquire more power at the expense of the citizens and understood that the concentration of that much power in the hands of any government would guarantee dire consequences. Has there ever been a tyrannical government anywhere that did allow its citizens to be keep and bear arms? Somehow I doubt it – certainly the 20th Century won’t provide any examples. And yet “liberals” want to take away this right…for what purpose? They claim its for public safety, crime, etc. but those are just warm and fuzzy talking points and don’t stand up to any evidence. I’d like to beleive they are just being naive but I began to think long ago that what they really want is just more power and the ability to consolidate power more easily.

  10. “South Florida Store Clerks Go Vigilante.”


    “You’re not the police; how dare you take the law in your own hands? Next time, call 911 and wait patiently for a customer service rep like a good little civilian.”

  11. From the vigilante clerks article:

    Cops termed it “justifiable homicide.” The ruling is backed up by former Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law, which offers wide-ranging legal protection to violent-crime victims who open fire on their aggressors before trying to make peace.

    All over South Florida, besieged employees are shooting back. A few blood-soaked examples:

    Ex-fucking-scuse me?

    1. Bush’s fault!

    2. “Before trying to make peace”? The guy was sticking a gun in their faces and herding them into the back of the store; it’s sort of hard to “make peace” when you’re worried they guy will blow your head off for talking. If it was so easy to make peace, we wouldn’t need hostage negotiators.

      1. Don’t even try. Those fuckheads are beyond retarded — comprehension is an alien concept in their shitty little universe.

      2. If someone does something that threatens lethal force–like waving a gun in your face–then that makes no sense at all. They’ve demonstrated that they can’t be trusted. If you can stop them without lethal force, great, but I don’t see how you’re obligated to risk your life at that point.

        Ditto for forcible break-ins. How do I know that someone who is willing to break into my house when I’m in it isn’t going to hurt or kill me or my family? Someone who does something like that should lose the right to complain about the use of force. I suppose the extreme situation, where you shoot him seventy times and set him on fire, might be actionable, but that’s about it, and not always then.

        1. Wasn’t there a case where a woman emptied two magazines into the intruder/rapist because she had a small .22 and he wouldn’t stop, and the prosecutor tried to fuck her over for it? Nevada, maybe?

          1. It’s all silly, anyway. If you’re intending to kill an assailant, dead is dead.

            1. Please remember well the self-defense mantra: you were not “intending to kill” him. Your intent was only to stop the threat.

              You were not shooting to try to kill him – you were shooting to try to stop the threat that he presented. You fired only as required to stop the threat. If he continued presenting a threat (i.e., coming towards you and trying to attack you) even after you already had shot him several times, clearly the threat was still present and you had to keep shooting until the threat was stopped. If it happened the he ended up dying as a result, that’s “too bad,” but it was not your “intent.”

              < Vulcan mind meld > Remember…. remember … < /Vulcan mind meld >

              1. Yes, yes, of course, but the fact is that shooting to stop at close range is pretty much the same thing.

        2. Pro,
          You know by the sound of the chainsaw when they’re trying to break in if they mean any harm or not.

          1. It’s a happy sound!

  12. it’s because Democrats were being elected more and more, replacing Republicans, and fixing the capitalist-induced poverty problems, thereby “fixing the crime and stuff”.

    Dog parks FTW!

  13. violent-crime victims who open fire on their aggressors before trying to make peace.

    Jeebus on Warty’s pogo-stick. Words just fail.

    1. The only peace a fucking mugger is going to get if I have anything to say about it is in his shallow grave.

    2. How shocking, government and their worshippers instinctively get worried when it’s the armed robber getting shot.

      1. I’m still waiting for the followup to that piece about the crazy sculptures that tells us how many people were arrested for assaulting the mannequin with the skimask and bat.

    3. Sounds like some journalist is in desperate need of an ass beating.

  14. All over South Florida, besieged irascible employees are shooting back. A few blood-soaked examples:

    It’s what they really meant.

  15. Next he began herding customers to the back of the small market.

    I can think of at least three examples off of the top of my head where robbers have herded everyone to the back of a store and then killed them all to leave no witnesses. Yeah, this is real vigilante stuff.

  16. Speaking of Florida:

    Peggy Noonan’s piece in the WSJ about the Republitards has a little gem about how they are waiting for Jeb Bush to “rescue” them from the Hellish torment of their Mittens vs Gangrinich nightmare.

    I don’t care if Jeb Bush makes Jesus Christ look like an agglomeration of Ghengis Khan, Alferd Packer and John Wayne Gacy, we have had a superabundance of BOOOOSHES in the White House already.

    1. I liked Jeb Bush as governor. If we were in a universe where only his dad had been president, I’d be fine with him running. But we have 310 million people in this country, so I think we can find someone not related to a previous president. Creating even the hint of dynasty is incredibly dangerous to our republic.

      1. What?

    2. They’re like the Kennedys of the right.

    3. Which is why my stomach cringes everytime I see the words “Chelsea Clinton” in the news.

      I’m sick of the dynasties, the ruling class. I was so excited when some woman with Kennedy in her name lost in MD. People were enamored by her just because of the Kennedy (and no I’m not googling her just to get it “right”).

      This will never stop, will it? Because term limits will never come to fuitition, will it?

      1. It’s moronic, especially considering that most of the people with these “dynastic” names are idiots.

        1. I think sons and daughters of politicians have a patriotic duty to work anonymous jobs. They can be rich. That is fine. They can even have cush fun jobs. But they should stay out of the limelight. It looks terrible to have an entire political class of inbreed idiot sons and daughters.

      2. Like this pushing of Chelsea Clinton on us. That’s really necessary? I think we’re tired of that family, unless they do a sex tape or something. Then we’d collectively welcome a reality show. It’s a law or something.

  17. we have 310 million people in this country, so I think we can find someone not related to a previous president.

    My sentiments, as well. Let’s not forget, Joe Biden attempted to hand his Senate seat down as patrimony to his son, as if it were the most reasonable and obvious thing to do. I have a hard enough time reconciling myself to the notion that people like Robert Byrd spend millenia in the national legislature, but the notion of Senate (and, to a lesser degree, Congressional) seats as family heirlooms is positively abominable.

    1. We’re so obsessed with celebrity. Of any kind. If we could at least keep that out of our politics, we’d do slightly better.

    2. What?!?!?

  18. Enrollment in my Florida concealed weapons permit classes have skyrocketed. An interesting fact is that in 2011, 52% of my students were female.

    1. You need a class to carry in FL?

      1. Texas, too. I think its pretty much part of the “shall issue” package.

      2. You need a class to carry in FL?

        That requirement can be waived under certain circumstances, such as if you can demonstrate past professional experience with firearms. For example, I’m told my DD-214 from the Marine Corps is enough to waive that requirement for me. All I have to do is fill out the paperwork, get fingerprinted, and send off the package, along with a check for (IIRC) $140. Never have bothered doing it, though.

  19. Y’all are forgetting that the main reason leftists dont want civilian armament, and argue against self-defense in general, is because a plague of violent crime helps keep the populace meek and cowed and creates an ongoing crisis that they can ‘fix’.

  20. I posted too soon….forgot to mention ‘fast and furious’. There is the left creating a plague of violent crime for exactly the reasons I listed above

  21. Suthenboy – don’t forget how they followed up on F and F. They used the results as an example to justify a regulation requiring dealers to report sales of semi-auto weapons in a few states including California – where those types of weapons have been essentially banned for decades. Executive branch decreed regulations layered over laws piled on top of existing bans. Even their own idea of “reasonable” has been worn thin to transparancy.

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