Support for tighter gun laws is often based on mistaken assumptions. A common one has to do with the alleged impulsiveness of otherwise law-abiding people—in particular, the notion that most shootings are acts of passion that involve guns purchased by non-criminals for home protection. However, a look at empirical studies—evidence, not assumptions—yields a vastly different conclusion. A 2004 study by the National Academy of Sciences, for example, couldn’t identify a single gun law that had lowered violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents. This wasn’t a minor report, but a massive review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, and dozens of government studies.
Other research has found that handguns have been used more often for defensive purposes than for committing crimes. “Annually, three to six times as many victims successfully defend themselves with guns as criminals misuse handguns,” writes attorney, criminologist, and Independent Institute Research Fellow Don B. Kates Jr. A study published in the BYU Journal of Public Law found that firearms were used approximately half a million times per year to stop home invasion burglaries, and in most of those cases no shots were fired: merely brandishing a gun sent the burglars scurrying to safety. These findings are especially comforting because the police rarely arrive in time to stop a crime in progress and are indemnified if they fail to protect law-abiding citizens.