Reality check: Using newspapers, police reports, and court records to assess defensive gun use

J. F. Denton, William Fabricius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify legitimate defensive gun uses (DGUs), and provide a reality check on previous estimates of the rate of DGUs by using a novel approach based on newspaper reports and police and court records. Previous estimates have relied on self report, differ by a factor of 10 or more, and are viewed as highly controversial. Design and setting: The reported uses of firearms in a newspaper covering roughly the Phoenix metropolitan area over almost a 3.5 month period were examined, supplemented where necessary by police and court records. Results: Two DGUs involving killing assailants and one involving firing at an assailant were found. The three DGUs stemmed from cases of "mutual combat" or exposed bystanders to gunfire. Conclusions: These findings cast doubt on rates of DGUs reported in an influential study by Kleck and Gertz, which predict that the police should have known about 98 DGU killings or woundings and 236 DGU firings at adversaries during the time the newspaper was surveyed. The findings reported here were closer to predictions based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, which suggest that the police should have known about eight DGU killings or woundings and 19 DGU firings at adversaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-98
Number of pages3
JournalInjury Prevention
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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