This article is from the can.talk.guns FAQ, by Skeeter Abell-Smith firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
It was actually an intruder versus a non-intruder. Nevertheless, it was
a misrepresentation of a meaningless comparison from a limited and
poorly done study. This study was performed over a 6 year period in one
single county in the USA. As this study is was done in just one county,
that makes its results useless for saying what happens anywhere else.
Scientists and researchers call this "a sample size of one".
The comparison is meaningless because it is an apples vs oranges
comparison. 37 of the 43 are suicides, 4.6 are classified as criminal
homicides, and 1.3 were classified as accidents.
Kellermann and Reay, the authors of the study have stated themselves
that "cases in which burglars or intruders are wounded or frightened
away by the use or display of a firearm [and] cases in which would-be
intruders may have purposely avoided a house known to be armed.."
should be included as a benefit. BUT, when they calculated their
comparison they did NOT include those cases. They therefore undercounted
protection uses by at least 500 times. If the purpose is to compare
defensive uses verses misuse, all defensive uses should be counted, not
just the 0.2% of time when a defensive use results in the death of an
attacker. You measure defensive uses by lives saved, not criminals
killed, after all, the purpose of self defense is to prevent or stop a
criminal attack, not kill the attacker.
Homicides that were found to be self-defense in a court of law were
counted as criminal homicides by this study, thus over stating the
number of criminal homicides, and under stating the number of
"Someone you know" is often described as friends or even "loved ones",
but in reality this includes rival gang members, drug dealers, abusive
spouses and acquaintances, and so on. Those who proclaim the 43 to 1
statistics will often imply that only dear friends, loved family
members, and small innocent children are the ones being killed, an
obviously misleading statement.
The study failed to distinguish between households or environs populated
by people with violent, criminal, or substance-abuse histories -- where
the risk of death is very high -- versus households inhabited by more
civil folk (for example, people who avoid high-risk activities like drug
dealing, gang banging and wife beating) -- where the risk is very low
indeed. In actuality, negligent adults allow fatal but avoidable
accidents; and homicides are perpetrated mostly by people with histories
of violence or abuse, people who are identifiably and certifiably at
~high risk~ for misadventure.
The Hart Poll in 1981 found 644,000 defensive uses with handguns per
year. The Mauser Poll in 1990 found 691,000 defensive uses per year.
The Field Poll in California in 1978 found 1.2 million handgun defensive
uses per year. The Time/CNN Poll in 1989 found over 908,000 defensive
uses per year. Gary Kleck estimated the yearly defensive use of firearms
by civilians to be at about 1,000,000 per year. A more recent study by
Gary Kleck put the yearly total at approximately 2,400,000 defensive
uses. Yet the total deaths by firearm in the USA only runs about 25,000
to 30,000 per year, and that includes accidents, murders, suicides and
self defense homicides. That means a gun is 30-40 times more likely
to defend against an assault or other crime than kill anybody. As
accidental firearm's related deaths is about 1400 per year, including
hunting accidents, the defensive use verses accidental death ratio is
about 700-800 to 1.
Gary Kleck completed another survey in 1995. This one had a sample size
of 5000 and confirmed his former estimate of 2,400,000 defensive uses
per year in the USA. [Kleck, Gary and Gertz, M, Armed resistance to
crime: the prevalence and nature of self-defense with a gun. Journal
of Criminal Law and Criminology. 86:143-186. (1995)]
It's interesting to note three things about the Kellermann "studies":
1.) Even though Kellermann did a second study which revised the "43
times" figure to "2.7 times", the former is the one that is most often
2.) The data for the latter "revised study" shows that alcohol, family
violence, living alone, and renting one's home are bigger risk factors
than having firearms.
3.) Kellermann is quoted in the March/April 1994 issue of _Health_ (pp.
59-61) as saying "If you've got to resist, your chances of being hurt
are less the more lethal your weapon.... If that were my wife, would I
want her to have a .38 special in her hand? Yeah."
More on this subject in "When Doctor's call for Gun Seizures, It's Grand
and in "Guns in the Medical Literature -- a Failure of Peer Review"
("the 43 times fallacy" and "the 43 times fallacy becomes the 2.8 times
and in ``The Long List of "Gun-Control" Myths'', available from:
"Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths
in the Home," Arthur L. Kellermann and Donald T. Reay, The New
England Journal of Medicine 314, no. 24 (June 12, 1986):
"Crime Control through the Private Use of Armed Force" by
Professor Gary Kleck.