The NYT’s Concealed Carry Fantasy


The NYT’s Concealed Carry Fantasy

The NYT has published an editorial entitled “Concealed Carry Fantasy,” in which the paper’s editorial board cites a study [PDF] of defensive gun uses (DGUs) done by the Violence Policy Center in order to “erase once and for all the idea that citizens with concealed guns are safer.”

Since 2007, at least 763 people have been killed in 579 shootings [by concealed carriers] that did not involve self-defense. Tellingly, the vast majority of these concealed-carry, licensed shooters killed themselves or others rather than taking down a perpetrator.

The death toll includes 29 mass killings of three or more people by concealed carry shooters who took 139 lives; 17 police officers shot to death, and — in the ultimate contradiction of concealed carry as a personal safety factor — 223 suicides. Compared with the 579 non-self-defense, concealed-carry shootings, there were only 21 cases in which self-defense was determined to be a factor.

The paper goes on to note that, “The tally by the Violence Policy Center, a gun safety group, is necessarily incomplete because the gun lobby has been so successful in persuading gullible state and national legislators that concealed carry is essential to public safety, thus blocking the extensive data collection that should be mandatory for an obvious and severe public health problem.”

Yes, the tally is definitely incomplete, because it doesn’t include what is arguably the most important and effective category of DGUs: those where no shots were fired.

Despite what you might think from looking at YouTube videos of cops gunning down unarmed citizens, relatively few police officers ever fire their weapons in the line of duty (or, at least, we think that’s the case, but we don’t know for sure because stats on officer-involved shootings are shamefully difficult to come by).

At any rate, many police officers report that merely drawing their weapon is often enough to neutralize a threat, and they draw their guns far more often than they actually fire them. How often to cops display weapons to stop a threat without firing? We don’t know, but anecdotally, it’s a lot. And in the case of non-cops, we actually have some numbers courtesy, shockingly enough, of the VPC.

But before I get into the VPC’s real DGU numbers–not the fake ones that they headline with–I can’t resist pointing out the irony that for the gun control crowd, who take as a core article of faith the tenet that cops are better shots than pistol-packing civilians, this deterrent factor of merely displaying a weapon is especially prominent in the case of mass shooters. At least half of mass shooters aren’t shot by the police, rather, they off themselves the minute the police arrive and start firing. It is the mere presence of a “good guy with a gun,” and not the shots fired themselves, that ends many mass shooting attacks.

Anyway, here’s where the VPC and NYT go way off the rails: the VPC report does actually provide numbers for situations where victims responded to a crime by threatening or attacking the criminal with a firearm, and the number over the five-year period covered by the report is a whopping 338,700 instances (combining numbers for violent crime and property crime).

In other words, this is how misleading this VPC report and the NYT editorial based on it are: the headline argument is that in a 5-year period concealed carriers fired 579 shots that weren’t in self defense vs. only 21 shots that were in self defense, ergo DGUs are a myth; however, that same report actually suggests that there were over 338,000 DGUs during that same period, but the VPC and NYT refuse to classify them as DGUs because no shots were fired. And of course they don’t try to estimate the percentage of those 338K DGUs that concealed carriers were responsible for, because that would really put a dent in their argument that concealed carriers are a menace to themselves and society.

I don’t ultimately presume to know what the real numbers are for DGUs or if concealed carry is a net benefit to society in terms of lives saved vs lives lost. But I do know that the NYT and the VPC certainly don’t have a clue and have sadly resorted to misrepresenting their own stats.

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Jon Stokes is Deputy Editor at

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