by Amy Swearer
I testified before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee last month in a hearing focused on “the economic toll of gun violence.”
Of course, there’s no doubt that gun violence imposes a tremendous cost on society, both financially and in far less readily calculable ways. How does one measure, for example, the mental and emotional toll of being shot?
As I explained to the committee, however, lawful gun owners are not largely to blame for these costs, despite many insinuations to the contrary by gun control advocates. Most lawful gun owners never will harm themselves or others and never will add a single dollar to the overall bill for gun violence.
Meanwhile, lawful gun ownership provides significant but often underacknowledged protective benefits, enabling peaceable citizens to defend themselves and others far more effectively than if they were unarmed.
Almost every major study on the issue has found that Americans use their firearms in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times annually, according to the most recent report on the subject by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For this reason, The Daily Signal each month publishes an article highlighting some of the previous month’s many news stories on defensive gun use that you may have missed—or that might not have made it to the national spotlight in the first place. (Read other accounts here from 2019, 2020, 2021, and so far in 2022.)
The examples below represent only a small portion of the news stories on defensive gun use that we found in July. You may explore more by using The Heritage Foundation’s interactive Defensive Gun Use Database. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
- July 3, Surprise, Arizona: An armed citizen fatally shot a gunman who opened fire at a neighborhood Fourth of July gathering, police said. Witnesses said the gunman lived in the neighborhood and had engaged in small talk and eaten a plate of food before drawing a handgun and shooting those around him. He killed two and wounded four others before being fatally shot by the armed citizen. Police said they thought the gunman’s actions were unprovoked, but didn’t know his motive.
- July 5, Houston: A woman was barbecuing with friends when her adult son showed up drinking and acting strangely, police said. The woman and her son went inside, where the son grabbed a rifle and fired more than 20 rounds at his mother before she fled outside. The son chased her, but was fatally shot by an armed neighbor who heard the gunfire and came to the woman’s defense, police said. The mother suffered multiple gunshot wounds, but was expected to survive. No one else was injured.
- July 7, Pensacola, Florida: A local sheriff told reporters that a homeowner would “absolutely not” face charges for using an “AK-47-style” rifle to defend his home against three men who broke in and threatened him with a handgun. Police arrested two of the three men, one of whom was the subject of several active arrest warrants for violent crimes. Police were looking for a third man, who apparently was wounded.
- July 12, Chicago: Police said that the holder of a concealed carry permit turned the tables on a teenager who started shooting at him in a restaurant parking lot. The man drew his own gun and shot his assailant in the hand and foot.
- July 17, Greenwood, Indiana: A 22-year-old man with a concealed carry permit fatally shot a would-be mass shooter who opened fire in a crowded mall food court, police said. The gunman killed three people, but the permit holder saved countless lives by ending the shooting just 15 seconds after it began. Experts roundly praised the permit holder’s marksmanship after he hit the gunman with eight out of 10 rounds from 40 yards away, without any police or military training.
- July 19, Kansas City, Missouri: Authorities said that a man won’t face charges after shooting and wounding an assailant who attacked him and his mother with a machete in a hardware store parking lot. The man and his mother were sitting in their vehicle when the assailant approached and began shattering car windows with the machete. He then swung the blade at them as they tried to escape. Although injured, the man managed to fire at least five rounds at the assailant, who ran a short distance before collapsing. Police charged him with several felonies.
- July 22, Billings, Montana: Police said a man asked a hotel guest for a cigarette, then tried to rob him at knifepoint despite the fact that the guest openly carried a handgun. The guest drew the gun and shot the would-be robber when he lunged.
- July 25, Williamsburg, Virginia: A homeowner and his family were sitting on their porch when an unknown man jumped a gate and approached, police said. The family went inside and locked the door, but the man tried to kick down the door and force his way inside. The homeowner fatally shot the intruder, police said.
- July 27, Wichita, Kansas: A couple briefly left their SUV unattended in their driveway, only to discover upon their return that the car had been stolen—with their two young children still inside. Police said the man and woman called 911 while starting a frantic search. They quickly found the stolen SUV and held the teen driver at gunpoint until police arrived. Bystanders found the children unharmed two blocks away, left on the side of the road while strapped into their car seats. Police arrested three others, all younger than 18 and suspected of being involved in “numerous other crimes.”
- July 29, Indianapolis: Just days after burglars “ransacked” his home, police said, a homeowner found himself again targeted by criminals. This time, he was home and armed when someone broke in, and he fatally shot the intruder. It was the second time the homeowner had used armed force to defend his home. In 2014, he shot and wounded another intruder, who was arrested. The homeowner told reporters that “you shouldn’t have to be armed inside of your house,” but that he hopes would-be criminals learn their lesson.
- July 31, Norco, California: An elderly liquor store owner was manning the counter early in the morning when he saw on his security monitors that a man armed with a rifle was about to enter the store. The store owner grabbed his own shotgun and the second the armed man aimed a rifle to announce a robbery, he fired a single blast that sent the robber fleeing while screaming, “He shot my arm off!” Police later arrested the wounded man and three other suspects. Although the store owner was not injured during the incident, he had a heart attack shortly afterward and is now recovering.
As these examples underscore, lawful gun owners save lives and protect livelihoods. They routinely interrupt criminal activity and stop bad situations from becoming even worse. Significant evidence indicates that the threat of armed resistance deters many criminals from committing crimes in the first place.
And in this way, lawfully armed civilians help reduce the costs imposed on society by criminal actors.
Lawful gun owners are not a significant part of the problem of gun violence. The evidence shows, however, that they are part of the solution.
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Amy Swearer is a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.