Private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes, contends a new study from the Violence Policy Center, an advocacy group. The center cites recent federal data showing that private citizens use guns to harm themselves or others far more often than to kill in self-defense. The study said that in 2015 there were only 265 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the FBI. Seventeen states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2015. That year, there were 9,027 criminal firearm homicides.
In 2015, for every justifiable homicide in the U.S. involving a gun, guns were used in 34 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year. The study found that only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employed guns for self-defense. From 2014 to 2016, only 1.1 percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.3 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm. “The myth of the self-defense gun lives on in firearms industry ads, NRA dogma, and self-serving political rhetoric. The reality is that guns don’t save lives, they end them,” said the center’s director, Josh Sugarmann.