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August 05, 2012


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I would like to hear more about "the deterrent factor of a criminal in a situation where he knows there are armed citizens could be significant." For instance, in neighborhoods besieged by violent gangs is it the case that all those guns deter crimes?

I do not commit crimes but I would imagine that if the host of deterrents that are already in place do not stop a potential criminal, would the presence of more guns really make much difference? That is, if I am already desperate for food, or am already too high to be rational, etc., will the extra guns make a significant difference?

I don't carry a gun but, if I did, would I really use it in a situation where there are innocent bystanders? How would I distinguish the criminal from the other "vigilantes" who all had their guns out and firing at each other?

Even in homes, there are children. There was the sad story of the young child who jumped out of closet, shouting boo, and was gunned down dead by her father who, incidentally, was hoping to collect a $5,000 reward for anyone who killed an intruder in his home.

I think banning guns outright would be a mistake, but I would second and third and fourth your call about educating people who wanted to carry them for defense or deterrence.

Scott Perlman

Thank you very much for the very thoughtful response to my post.

The statement you quoted was taken after a statement I made that the issue is complex. I then stated, as an example of possible issues that there could be a deterrent effect to allowing concealed carry. Not that there was one. But in all honesty I did have a bias to believe that there was a deterrent effect based on the data presented by John Lott in his book, More Guns, Less Crime. This was a follow up to an article he co-authored with David Mustard titled, Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns in the University of Chicago’s Journal of legal studies.

But your comments motivated me to review this and then research additional information on the concept of the deterrent factors of concealed carry laws. I have discovered research published after the book was published that either debunk his statistical techniques or show, using more sophisticated methods, that there is really no correlation between crime reduction and citizens that are allowed to carry.

So I will refrain from even suggesting this as a reason for justifying conceal carry laws.

Your point about having many armed citizens respond to a crime in progress supports some of my points. First, I believe that gun use can only be justified in the protection of body, and not property. Next, I support sufficient training to prevent a group of citizens from simultaneously drawing on a criminal and then firing at each other. That said, I do think your example is a bit farfetched.

And regarding your story about the father who accidently shot his daughter, it is tragic. But I have to ask who was offering a $5000 reward for “killing an intruder” If true, that is certainly the crime in my opinion if not in actuality.


Thank you for the additional research you carried out on my behalf.

To return the favor (?) ... I couldn't find the original home shooting tragedy story, but I found http://www.frymybacon.com/articles/articles.php?articleID=443 -- "A Nebraska woman was shot in the head after jumping out of the closet and yelling 'Boo!' to surprise her boyfriend. He mistook her for a burglar and pulled out his Glock. The couple had announced their engagement two days earlier."

Also, I have read stories of undercover police officers displaying arms being shot by other officers ... and these are the professionals!

I guess it is always a balance; what sort of tragedies are we willing to accept if we think we have a shot at preventing other tragedies?

But I also worry that having a gun in the home also means more chances at fatal domestic arguments and more chances at suicide. Whether an argument or a deep depression, psychologists talk of opportunities. If it there is a bridge nearby then there is a jump to suicide, but if it is 20 minutes away, the person will frequently change his mind by the time he gets there. Similarly, if there is a gun that is a little too handy then there isn't the time to cool down.

As you say, it is all quite complex. Thank you for writing about it.

Scott Perlman

I have to say that the story about the woman who was shot does not appear to be legit. I looked for other references to it and did not find any. But there are plenty of real examples of accidental shootings in the home. Regardless, I completely agree with your premise that a gun in the home increases the risks of accidents.

I believe the risks are manageable with training and appropriate care. For example, my guns are unloaded and in a very secure gun safe. My “gun friends” think I am crazy because this renders them unusable in the event of a home invasion. I live in an area where I believe the risk of accidents occurring is higher than a home invasion, so that is the choice I make. But even if you choose to keep them more accessible, risks can be reduced. But by definition, there will always be higher risks having them about then not.

Of course, my “gun friends” would say that the risk of not having them out and accessible and therefore not being able to defend yourself in a home invasion is higher than the risks of having the loaded and ready.

As you stated, guns in the home do increase the risk of their use in domestic disputes and suicides. Some articles that cite studies can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14647-guns-in-the-home-may-increase-suicide-risk.html and http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full.

On one hand, I have always said that if I could snap my fingers and eliminate all the guns I would do so without hesitation acknowledging that I would lose the hobby I find quite fun. If there were no guns in anyone’s hands, the world would be a safer place. And seeing as I do not believe they are credible protection against a government run amok (one of the two most common reasons people site for gun rights), there is really no need to have one if no one else had them. As eliminating all guns is impossible I choose to get training and to practice so that I am safe and proficient in their use. And as I said before, when the law changes in Illinois I will likely carry in situations I deem appropriate. I will do so because I believe the risks will be lower than the benefits.


Although not my hobbies, I can appreciate that there are those who enjoy hunting or going to a shooting range.

My concern is only with those who are looking for defense or deterrence. I agree that guns as protection from governments is futile. (As in thousands of well-trained well-armed elite Iraqi republican guard were buried alive in their foxholes in a single day by an army that considered them to be expendable.) And I agree that lethal violence is inappropriate in the defense of mere property. So that leaves only guns as a defense or deterrence against "bad" individuals trying to hurt "good" individuals. I look at the same information you do, weighing risks and benefits, but come up with the opposite answer. Fortunately, in America that is an acceptable outcome!

Not that it expresses the arguments well, but it is so on topic I cannot help but give the link. : http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/30/1114189/-What-we-really-need

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