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April 23, 2024 04:12 PM UTC

Gun "Safety" Statistics Commonly Cited by Republican Lawmakers are Utter Nonsense

  • by: Colorado Pols

Republicans in the state legislature continue to obey their idiot masters at the NRA and RMGO in opposing any and all gun violence prevention legislation. It matters not whether these proposals are straightforward and obvious concepts; if Democrats suggest so much as limiting someone’s access to owning a combination machine gun and flamethrower, Colorado Republican lawmakers start screeching out absurd talking points in opposition. 

State Rep. Brandi Bradley (R-Littleton) has a lot of “facts” about guns. None of them are true.

Republican State Rep. Brandi Bradley of Littleton has been leading the way in the nonsense narrative department, and she’s very proud of her penchant for firing off statements that are about as factually sound as a QAnon chat room. She even posted a recent rant from the House Floor to her ‘X’ account when speaking against HB24-1270 (Firearm Liability Insurance Requirement), which is actually very instructive for our purposes:

“We all agree that we want safety,” said Bradley. “Is that correct? Because, ‘news flash,’ gun ownership saves lives.” 

In this brief speech, Bradley belts out a couple of talking points that have been stuck on repeat on the Republican playlist for the entire legislative session. These points, which Bradley is likely just taking at face value from an NRA “fact sheet,” would all make for decent arguments on being wary of gun violence prevention (GVP) legislation…if only they weren’t so totally and completely false. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Guns Prevent Millions of Crimes!

BRADLEY: “I’ve said it until I am blue in the face…you cannot argue against the fact that 3 million crimes are prevented on a yearly basis – or almost 8,000 a day – by brandishing a gun.”

If you just stop and think about it for a moment, this seems like a completely-outlandish statement. How would anyone even know this information? Who is documenting 3 million annual examples of something NOT happening?

As it turns out, this talking point comes from a study that would need to be 25% better in order to even be considered half-assed. As gun violence researchers at “The Trace” wrote in 2022:

Academics largely rely on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), a twice-yearly poll of crime victims conducted by the federal government, while gun rights activists point to a series of telephone surveys conducted in the early 1990s by a criminologist and self-described “gun control skeptic” named Gary Kleck…

…More than 20 years ago, Kleck, who taught at Florida State University, reported a far higher figure, 2.5 million, and that’s been embraced by gun activists. In 1993, Kleck and his colleague Marc Gertz surveyed 5,000 adults and asked if they or their household members had used a gun for self-defense in the past five years, even if it wasn’t fired. Just over 1 percent of respondents said they did. In their National Self-Defense Survey, published in 1995, Kleck and Gertz extrapolated that figure to the entire adult population of 200 million, concluding that Americans use guns for self-defense as often as 2.1 to 2.5 million times a year. 

Bradley’s claim that guns are used to prevent “3 million crimes a year” is almost certainly just a further extrapolation of this already ridiculous extrapolation from the early 1990s. David Hemenway, ​​director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, pointed out the sheer absurdity of these numbers in 1997:

Guns were reportedly used by defenders for self-defense in approximately 845,000 burglaries. From sophisticated victimization surveys, however, we know that there were fewer than six million burglaries in the year of the survey and in only 22 percent of those cases was someone certainly at home (1.3 million burglaries). Since only 42 percent of U.S. households own firearms, and since the victims in two thirds of the occupied dwellings were asleep, the 2.5 million figure requires us to believe that burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100 percent of the time. [Pols emphasis]

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center states this more succinctly via its School of Public Health:

Guns are not used millions of times each year in self-defense. 

There is actually some decent data showing that “victims use guns in less than 1% of contact crimes.” The “good guy with a gun theory” is also demonstrably false when you consider that researchers do have some idea of how many potential perpetrators of crime are shot by a bystander:

Using data from surveys of detainees in six jails from around the nation, we worked with a prison physician to determine whether criminals seek hospital medical care when they are shot.  Criminals almost always go to the hospital when they are shot.  To believe fully the claims of millions of self-defense gun uses each year would mean believing that decent law-abiding citizens shot hundreds of thousands of criminals.  But the data from emergency departments belie this claim, unless hundreds of thousands of wounded criminals are afraid to seek medical care.  But virtually all criminals who have been shot went to the hospital, and can describe in detail what happened there. [Pols emphasis]

In summary, there is no data showing that “3 million crimes” are allegedly prevented by a person with a gun. This figure comes from a completely unscientific extrapolation, conducted in 1993, that resulted FROM A SURVEY OF 5,000 PEOPLE. 


400,000 Violent Crimes are Prevented by Firearms!

 BRADLEY: “You cannot argue that every year 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented using firearms.”

As it turns out, you actually can argue against this 400,000 number; it is a little harder to track down, however, since those who parrot the data rarely bother to explain where it came from. For example, consider this 2019 article from the Foundation for Economic Education, a conservative/libertarian think tank:

James Agresti, founder and president of JustFacts, provided overwhelming evidence from multiple sources showing that defensive gun use is more common and effective than anti-gun fanatics like The New York Times suggest or will admit. Agresti says that “people who use a gun for defense rarely harm (much less kill) criminals. This is because criminals often back off when they discover their targets are armed.”

That makes logical sense, sure, but there is no reliable data to explain how often this actually happens. Other research makes clear that this 400,000 number would be pretty hard to reasonably discern from available information. 

Hmmm…which number is larger?

According to the 2022 “National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS),” 

“[Only] 2 percent of victims of nonfatal violent crime — that includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault — and 1 percent of property crime victims use guns in self-defense. According to the survey, firearms were used defensively in 166,900 nonfatal violent crimes between 2014 and 2018, which works out to an average of 33,380 per year.” [Pols emphasis]

There’s a giant chasm between 400,000 and 33,380. You could certainly argue that it is a good thing if any violent crimes were prevented by someone wielding a gun. The problem with that argument is that we know that more guns lead to significantly more violent crimes – making widespread gun ownership a net negative in terms of protecting and preserving life.

As “The Trace” explains:

The NCVS’s most recent firearm violence report tallied 14,000 gun homicides and 470,800 incidents of nonfatal firearm violence — which includes armed sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault — among people 12 and older in 2018. That adds up to 484,800 gun crimes. [Pols emphasis]

If you’re doing the math, 484,000 gun crimes in 2018 is a hell of a lot more than the 33,380 violent crimes reportedly prevented by guns. 

Guns Are Rarely Used in Crimes!

BRADLEY: “Fewer than 1% of firearms are used in the commission of a crime, but over 3 million are used to prevent crime.”

We’ve already, um, shot down that 3 million number, so let’s consider the claim that “fewer than 1% of firearms are used in the commission of a crime.”

As the Centers for Disease Control explains:

Firearm injuries are a serious public health problem. In 2022, there were more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States according to provisional mortality data – that’s about 132 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day. More than half of firearm-related deaths were suicides and more than 4 out of every 10 were firearm homicides.

More people suffer nonfatal firearm-related injuries than die. More than seven out of every 10 medically treated firearm injuries are from firearm-related assaults. Nearly 2 out of every 10 are from unintentional firearm injuries. There are few intentionally self-inflicted firearm-related injuries seen in hospital emergency departments. Most people who use a firearm in a suicide attempt, die from their injury.

Firearm injuries affect people in all stages of life. Taking into account all types of firearm injuries—including homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries — firearm injuries were among the 5 leading causes of death for people ages 1-44 in the United States in 2022, and the leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1-19.

Bradley can sort of get away with saying that “only 1% of firearms are used in the commission of a crime” only because there is no reliable data on just how many firearms currently exist in the United States. This is intentional – for decades the NRA and similar groups have lobbied Congress to stop funding for gun violence research programs. The reason is obvious: Gun rights groups know damn well that accurate numbers would not help any of their arguments. 

Regardless, that “1%” number is hard to believe. Via The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence”:

Although overall crime rates have declined in the past decade and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years (FBI, 2011a), crime-related deaths involving firearms remain a serious threat. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Uniform Crime Reporting Program, 68,720 people were murdered in firearm-related violence between 2007 and 2011. During that same time frame, firearms accounted for more than twice as many murders as all other weapons combined (FBI, 2011b). More than two-thirds of victims murdered by a spouse or ex-spouse died as a result of a gunshot wound (Cooper and Smith, 2011). More than 600,000 victims of robbery and other crimes reported that they faced an assailant armed with a gun (Truman and Rand, 2010).

Maybe the same guns are being used in ALL of those gun-related crimes!

Probably not.


More Gun Restrictions = More Crime!


BRADLEY: “The more gun restrictions you put on the people of Colorado, the more crime goes up.”

It turns out that you are much less likely to be killed by a tank in places where there aren’t many tanks.

This one is actually the easiest to disprove. The truth is the exact opposite.

In 2017, researchers at Stanford University found that “states that adopted right-to-carry laws have experienced a 13 to 15 percent increase in violent crime in the 10 years after enacting those laws.”

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” wrote Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue. 

As The Center for American Progress adds:

Contrary to what the NRA would have the public believe, more permissive gun laws are making people less safe. In the states with the weakest gun laws, gun deaths rose 46 percent from 2012 to 2020, compared with just a 7 percent increase in the states with the strongest gun laws over that same period. Additionally, recently released data from the Center for American Progress show that firearm homicides fell much faster in 2023 in states with the strongest gun laws, while states with the weakest gun laws saw marginal, if any, improvements to public safety. [Pols emphasis]

The truth is that guns are not typically used for self-defense, nor are they effective in deterring mass shootings or criminal activity. In fact, guns are more likely to be used in violent crime, get stolen, result in a fatal accident, or be used to facilitate a criminal homicide than be used in a protective capacity. And those living with a gun in the home are twice as likely to die by homicide and three times as likely to die by suicide than those living in a gun-free household. [Pols emphasis]


Shooting Yourself in the Political Foot (Metaphorically)

Bradley doesn’t touch on this point, but we will: Going to such great lengths to avoid addressing GVP issues is most definitely NOT what most Coloradans want from their elected officials. Check out this slide of poll results from the June 2022 issue of “The Rocky Mountaineer“:


Right-wing constituents of Republican lawmakers might be happy that their elected officials are trying to stand in the way of GVP legislation, but this is exactly how Republicans ended up in their current micro-minority in the state legislature. All of the fake statistics in the world won’t convince a majority of Coloradans that we should stop trying to work on GVP legislation.


3 thoughts on “Gun “Safety” Statistics Commonly Cited by Republican Lawmakers are Utter Nonsense

  1. In over 50 years of competitive debate — participating, coaching, and judging — I can only remember a couple of instances when the team relying on "more guns = less crime" was able to prevail.  Statistics here are focused on United States experience.  Add in all of the proof from other civilized nations, the ones that have greater gun controls, and the contrast becomes even clearer. 

    For example, Pew Research summarized:

    The U.S. gun death rate was 10.6 per 100,000 people in 2016, the most recent year in the study, which used a somewhat different methodology from the CDC. That was far higher than in countries such as Canada (2.1 per 100,000) and Australia (1.0), as well as European nations such as France (2.7), Germany (0.9) and Spain (0.6). But the rate in the U.S. was much lower than in El Salvador (39.2 per 100,000 people), Venezuela (38.7), Guatemala (32.3), Colombia (25.9) and Honduras (22.5), the study found. Overall, the U.S. ranked 20th in its gun fatality rate that year.



  2. More guns = less crime must also refer to the fact that without the ATM that gun sales are for the GOP, they would actually. have to turn to criminal methods of fundraising to keep their party on life support.

  3. Reasonable people can disagree about HB24-1270: Firearm Liability Insurance Requirement. I support the concept and would have voted for this bill.


    One can engage on this and other public policy disagreements from a place of integrity, rather than engage in the kind of misleading, demagogic hyperbole one hears from the current representative of House District 39. One can by all means make legitimate arguments against this bill.


    One must not undermine understanding with manipulative assertions presented as “fact.”



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