Letters to the Editor: You don’t have to shoot someone to use a gun defensively

A man with a "We the People" tattoo wears a pistol in a holster.
A man wears a pistol during a rally in support of open carry laws in Austin, Texas, in 2015.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: Dr. Steven J. Sainsbury pushes the absurd claim there are only 2,000 defensive gun uses per year. (“Thinking of buying a gun for self-defense? Don’t do it,” Opinion, Jan. 31)

The claim overwhelmingly relies on counting defensive gun uses reported in news articles, but that is a dramatic undercount because the vast majority of successful self-defense cases don’t make the news. Ninety-five percent of defensive gun uses involve merely brandishing a gun, and less than 1% involve the attacker being killed or wounded.

But most news stories only report on cases where attackers are killed and brandishings are ignored.


Seventeen national surveys find an average of 2 million defensive gun uses per year. The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey puts it at around 100,000. Both show the 2,000 claim to be ridiculous.

Finally, the article labels me as a “gun rights advocate,” not a researcher who has held academic positions at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Stanford and Yale. I have also been a senior advisor for research at the U.S. Department of Justice.

John R. Lott Jr., Missoula, Mt.

The writer is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.


To the editor: Sainsbury could not be more right about gun ownership not providing protection against criminals. Here is an example of why.

I was the victim of a brutal rape some years ago when I was 40 years old. I drove into my garage, turned off the engine and was suddenly accosted by two men.


I could have had a loaded, unlocked gun sitting right next to me on the seat of my car ready to shoot, and I would not have been able to get to it to save myself. Instead, more likely would have been for the rapists to have found it there and used it against me.

I thank God I was not foolish enough to believe a gun could have saved me.

Diane McBain, Woodland Hills