Gary Kleck - Criticism


A study of gun use in the 1990s, by David Hemenway at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, claimed that criminal use of guns is far more common than self-defense use of guns. Kleck claims that Hemenway's own surveys confirmed Kleck's conclusion that defensive gun use numbers at least in the hundreds of thousands each year, and that a far larger number of surveys (at least 20) have shown that defensive uses outnumbered criminal uses.; however, the Hemenway study just cited gives no such figure and says in its conclusion, "We might expect that unlawful 'self-defense' gun uses will outnumber the legitimate and socially beneficial ones." Critics, including Hemenway, respond that these estimates are difficult to reconcile with comparable crime statistics, are subject to a high degree of sampling error, and that "because of differences in coverage and potential response errors, what exactly these surveys measure remains uncertain; mere repetition does not eliminate bias". . In another article, Hemenway notes that Kleck has armed women preventing 40% of all sexual assaults, a percentage he considers unlikely because few women go armed. In the same article, Hemenway notes that Kleck's survey shows armed citizens wounding or killing attackers 207,000 times in one year, contrasted against the total of around 100,000 Americans wounded or killed, accidentally or intentionally, in a typical year.

Various studies have found that defensive gun uses occur at a dramatically lower magnitude than that found by Kleck. In the article "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms" by Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, Cook and Ludwig quote the National Crime Victim Survey as finding 108,000 DGUs per year. One section of the article compares the U.S. crime rate to the number of DGUs reported by Kleck and Kleck-like studies and concludes that their estimate of the DGUs is improbably high.An article published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics says, "In 1992 offenders armed with handguns committed a record 931,000 violent crimes ... On average in 1987-92 about 83,000 crime victims per year used a firearm to defend themselves or their property. Three-fourths of the victims who used a firearm for defense did so during a violent crime; a fourth, during a theft, household burglary, or motor vehicle theft."

Kleck has attempted to rebut these criticisms, claiming that studies of methodological errors in surveys concerning other controversial behaviors consistently find that the errors produce, on net, underestimates of the frequency of the behaviors.

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