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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
140,000 LA County Gun Owners Have Used Firearms Defensively

In new data on defensive use of firearms by private citizens, a Los Angeles Times poll published Sunday, May 17, 1992, indicates that 9% of Southern California gun owners have used a firearm in personal self-defense, resulting in an approximation of between 135,000 to 145,000 gun owners who have personally defended themselves with a gun in Los Angeles County alone. The poll question excluded defensive use of a weapon in the military or while on the job.

Out of those who say they have used a gun in self-defense, only 2% say they actually fired the gun, signifying that the deterrence value of the firearm without being fired was approximately 98%.

The poll, conducted by telephone between April 9-15, 1992, interviewed 2,619 Southern Californians 18 or older — 878 gun owners and 1,741 non-gun-owners, and the Times‘ pollsters, using demographic weighting, estimate the number of gun owners in Southern California as approximately 24% of the population. Because of the size of the sample, the Times‘ pollsters give a 4% margin of error in their results.

The 1990 U.S. Census gives the 18-and-older population of Los Angeles County as 6,537,054.

The Times‘ poll data is particularly useful, inasmuch as it can be directly correlated with other statistical information on crime drawn from the polling.

While 9% of Southern California gun owners report use of their weapon in defense against crime, 13% of Southern Californians report that a member of their household has been a victim of a violent crime or act of violence in the last two years, with 13% also reporting having personally witnessed a crime or act of violence.

This data, when correlated, indicates that among the subset of the population that owns a firearm, the firearm stands a significant chance of preventing a crime or act of violence when it occurs. Just how high the deterrence effect is can not be correlated exactly because the Times‘ poll did not specify that the defense in question needed to be within the last two years, as the crime or act of violence in question was.

Further, the highest rates of victimization are among African-Americans, at 20%, and Latinos, at 17%, while 11% of Anglos and 9% of Asian Americans are victimized. With the exception of the Asian-American community, this victimization rate approximates an inverse proportion to the rate of firearms ownership in each community, with 43% of Anglos having at least one gun in their home or garage, 33% of African-Americans, and 25% of Latinos. The anomaly is the Asian-American community which has a 19% rate of firearms ownership and a relatively low rate of crime and violence.

The Times’ poll data tends to reinforce the findings of the study by Gary Kleck, Ph.D., a criminologist from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, which he summarized at the August 29 through September 1, 1991, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, as follows:

“Each year,” Kleck stated, “about 1500-2800 criminals are lawfully killed by gun-wielding American civilians in justifiable or excusable homicides, far more than are killed by police officers. There are perhaps 600,000 -1 million defensive uses of guns each year… People who use guns for self-protection in robberies and assaults are less likely to have the crime completed against them (in a robbery, this means losing their property), and, contrary to widespread belief, are less likely to be injured, compared to either victims who use other forms of resistance or to victims who do nothing to resist. (Criminals take the gun away from the victim in less than 1% of these incidents.) The evidence does not support the idea that nonresistance is safer than resisting with a gun.”

The Los Angeles Times poll compiled other interesting data relating to firearms ownership:

  • While 75% of all homicides in Los Angeles County are gun-related, 33% of homicides in Los Angeles County are gang-related – either the shooter or the victim is gang-member.
  • The chances of being shot in Los Angeles county: 1/1000 (.1%) – (same odds as getting lung cancer).
  • Over the last five years, California Department of Justice records show 466,543 handguns sold in Los Angeles County.
  • The vast majority of firearms in Los Angeles are owned by ordinary citizens rather than criminals or gang-members.
  • 29% of Southern California homes have guns compared to 43% nationally, however most Southern Californians have guns for self-protection rather than sporting use, compared to opposite elsewhere.
  • Most Southern California gun owners possess more than one gun. 70% own at least one handgun. 70% own a shotgun or rifle.
  • Most firearms owners in Southern California have received formal firearms training, and firearms classes are booming, especially for women.
  • Even though it is a misdemeanor, 25% of gun owners admit to sometimes carrying a loaded gun either in their car or on their person. 20% of gun owners admit to carrying a loaded gun in their car, and 11% admit to carrying a concealed loaded gun on their person.
  • 12-1/2% of Southern California residents are planning to buy a gun in 1992 – 75% for self protection. In a follow-up survey conducted in Los Angeles after the riots, 5% of LA City residents said they will buy a gun as a result of the riots.


Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is Do Guns Do More Harm or More Good?

Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is
Copyright © 1994, 1999 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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