Defensive gun use not rare; concealed carry laws do not cause gun crime

Opinion by Zachary Faria

Shannon Watts, a gun control activist and the founder of Moms Demand Action, claims that defensive gun use in the United States is “rare” and that laws allowing people to carry guns increase gun crime. Both of her claims are dubious at best.

After an active shooter was killed by a law-abiding gun owner at a mall in Indiana, Watts took to Twitter to challenge the National Rifle Association’s support for constitutional carry laws.

“The NRA won’t tell you that defensive gun use is rare, and data shows criminal carry laws increase gun crime and gun homicides in the states where they’re passed,” Watts said. “But most of all, these deadly laws increase gun sales, which is the real reason they’re pushing them.”

Putting aside the claim about the NRA wanting to increase gun sales, Watts claims that constitutional carry is “criminal carry” and that it is deadly, as well as that defensive gun use is “rare.” Both of these claims lend themselves to a tough fact check.

Watts does not note by which metric defensive gun use is “rare,” so we are left with simply checking the data. According to most surveys of gun owners, including a 1997 report by the Justice Department, guns are used defensively about 1.5 million times a year. A 2021 survey found that number to be 1.67 million. No shot was fired in nearly 82% of defensive incidents, and most of them are probably never reported to authorities.

For a more grounded number, Tom Elliott has compiled a list of stories of defensive gun use at Grabien. Going back to Jan. 1, 2019, the list has 354 documented examples. In exactly 200 days since the start of this year, the Grabien list has 45 examples of defensive gun use. Although Watts didn’t define “rare,” it would seem that it is far more common than she is suggesting.

As for “criminal carry laws,” it would be a stretch to suggest that Republicans are OK with criminals carrying guns. Many Democratic prosecutors, on the other hand, are just fine with it.

Here’s a hint: Criminals do not follow gun laws. According to a DOJ report from 2019, 43% of gun criminals obtain their crime guns from the black market, 25% from another, and 23% either steal their guns or obtain them at a crime scene. It would be a stretch to suggest that criminals are overly concerned with concealed carry laws. Otherwise, there would be no crime in Chicago.

Lastly, Watts claims these “criminal carry laws increase gun crime and gun homicides in states where they’re passed.” Republican-run states do contain several of the cities with the highest homicide rates, but many of those homicides are committed in Democratic-run cities. It is also again unclear why criminals would care what the concealed carry law is. Moreover, concealed carry permit holders have a lower crime rate than police officers.

As is typical for gun-control supporters, Watts wants to focus on legal access to guns. But criminals are criminals precisely because they don’t follow laws. Her claims try to create a connection between concealed carry laws and criminality that doesn’t exist, and she downplays the possibility that law-abiding citizens would ever need to protect themselves and others.

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