3. Firearm Control and the Justice System

3.2 The Self Defense Denial

"A street thug and a paid killer are professionals - beasts of prey, if you will, who have disassociated themselves from the rest of humanity and can now see human beings in the same way that trout fisherman see trout."

Willard Gaylin, The Killing of Bonnie Garland, 1982

"Robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all." [7].

Kleck, Point Blank

The likelyhood that a gun kept in the home is "x" times more likely to kill or injure a member of the immediate family than an armed intruder originated in American studies notable only for their flaws in methodology [8]. This argument, however, is fallacious. People don't keep guns in their homes to kill burglars or armed robbers but to prevent burglaries and robberies. The effectiveness of a home security system can't be determined by how many times the alarm goes off but by the fact that it never goes off. The same is true of civilian gun ownership. Deterrence isn't measured by how many criminals lay dead or wounded on doorsteps but by property and persons that are ultimately protected from violence.
"...most armed premises would be externally indistinguishable from unarmed premises. This has two important implications. First, gun owners ordinarily should not enjoy any more benefit from whatever deterrent effects mass gun ownership may exert than nonowners. Whereas owners bear the costs of gun ownership, their unarmed neighbors share in any deterrent benefits. On the other hand, only gun owners will be able to actually use a gun to disrupt a criminal attempt made against them. Second, criminals usually cannot avoid the risk of running into an armed occupant merely by carefully choosing which home or store to victimize. They are forced to treat this risk as a real possibility for any occupied premises. This sets defensive gun ownership apart from other, more visible, self-protective measures because it makes displacement of criminals from armed to unarmed targets less likely. Criminals can shift from heavily patrolled neighborhoods to less heavily patrolled ones, but they cannot so easily to occupied homes or stores which they can be confident contain no armed occupants." [9].

"If the possibility of deterrence due to criminal justice system activities is taken seriously, then so should the possibility of deterrence due to private gun ownership and defensive use." [10].

Kleck, Point Blank

It is frequently assumed that Canadians do not use their firearms for self defense. This misconception was shattered by survey research undertaken by Simon Fraser University Professor Gary Mauser who discovered that firearms are used approximately 62,000 times per year in Canada for self defense (excluding police, military, and security guard incidents) [11]. During the period 1985-1990, an estimated 312,000 households had at least one person who used a firearm (whether it was fired or not) to protect themselves or their family [12]. Half of these incidents involved defense against human threats. These numbers suggest that firearms may save as many as 40 lives for every life lost to a gun and that, on average, every 9 minutes in Canada a civilian uses a firearm in defense of themself, their family, and their property [13].

On a per capita basis Canadian gun owners report using a firearm in self defense almost as often as gun owners in the United States; however, Canadians use firearms more frequently against dangerous animals than do Americans [14]. Professor Mauser estimated that firearms in Canada are used about three times as often in self defense as they are in criminal violence. His research also revealed that over one-half of Canadians believe they have a right to own a firearm [15].

"In this day and age, a 'psychological belief in safety' probably ought not to be dismissed as a trivial benefit. If people feel safer because they own a gun, and in turn lead happier lives because they feel safer and more secure, then their guns make a direct and non trivial contribution to their overall quality of life." [16].

"That private weapons are ineffective as crime deterrents had not been established directly in any source." [17].

Wright, et al., Under the Gun