Forty-six-year-old Joyce Cordoba stood behind the deli counter while working at a Wal-Mart in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Suddenly, her ex-husband -- against whom Ms. Cordoba had a restraining order -- showed up, jumped over the deli counter, and began stabbing Ms. Cordoba. Due Moore, a 72-year-old Wal-Mart customer, witnessed the violent attack. Moore, legally permitted to carry a concealed weapon, pulled out his gun, and shot and killed the ex-husband. Ms. Cordoba survived the brutal attack and is recovering from her wounds.
This raises a question. How often do Americans use guns for defensive purposes? We know that in 2003, 12,548 people died through non-suicide gun violence, including homicides, accidents and cases of undetermined intent.
UCLA professor emeritus James Q. Wilson, a respected expert on crime, police practices and guns, says, "We know from Census Bureau surveys that something beyond a hundred thousand uses of guns for self-defense occur every year. We know from smaller surveys of a commercial nature that the number may be as high as two-and-a-half or three million. We don't know what the right number is, but whatever the right number is, it's not a trivial number."
Criminologist and researcher Gary Kleck, using his own commissioned phone surveys and number extrapolation, estimates that 2.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes each year. He further found that of those who had used guns defensively, one in six believed someone would have been dead if they had not resorted to their defensive use of firearms. That corresponds to approximately 400,000 of Kleck's estimated 2.5 million defensive gun uses. Kleck points out that if only one-tenth of the people were right about saving a life, the number of people saved annually by guns would still be at least 40,000.
The Department of Justice's own National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study titled "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms," estimated that 1.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes every year. Although the government's figure estimated a million fewer people defensively using guns, the NIJ called their figure "directly comparable" to Kleck's, noting that "it is statistically plausible that the difference is due to sampling error." Furthermore, the NIJ reported that half of their respondents who said they used a gun defensively also admitted having done so multiple times a year -- making the number of estimated uses of self-defense with a gun 4.7 million times annually.