Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens
This special publication uses an extensive collection of news reports from over an eight‐year period to survey the circumstances and outcomes of defensive gun uses in America. Federal and state lawmakers often oppose repealing or amending laws governing the ownership or carrying of guns. That opposition is often based on assumptions that the average citizen is incapable of successfully employing a gun in self‐defense or that possession of a gun in public will tempt people to violence in contentious situations.
Those assumptions, illustrated in this report, are false. Such cases are an exceedingly small minority of gun uses by otherwise law‐abiding citizens and a great number of tragedies‐murders, rapes, assaults, robberies‐have been thwarted by self‐defense gun uses. The vast majority of gun owners are ethical and competent — and thousands of crimes are prevented each year by ordinary citizens with guns.
This report’s analysis begins with an overview of the academic studies that have tried to estimate the frequency of defensive gun uses. It then examines recent legal issues and trends surrounding the law of self defense, and then explores the manner and circumstances in which people use guns against criminals.
This paper also examines instances of gun use in self‐defense in order to provide a better understanding of their character. When ordinary Americans use guns in self defense, what is the nature of that use? How frequently do these events occur and what are the consequences? Finally, a lengthy Appendix provides scores of documented examples in which ordinary people have used guns to defend themselves.