No Shots Fired in 9 of 10 Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs)
Although defensive gun uses (DGU) happen every day, they often go unnoticed. Many people are surprised to learn that in 95% of DGUs, the victim doesn't fire a shot. Let's discuss the implications of these numbers and what it means for the everyday carrier.
How many DGUs per year —
Multiple studies (18 or so that I know of) put the number of annual defensive gun uses in the United States between 100,000 and 3.6 million. So if you throw out the highest and lowest survey numbers, the average sits at about 2 million instances where someone uses a firearm in self-defense.
No matter what number you accept, it's clear people use firearms every day to defend life.
One of the many reasons the actual number of DGUs is hard to nail down is that around 95% don't involve a single fired shot. Because of this, most go unreported to police. The media barely covers incidents where someone shoots a gun in self-defense. They certainly don't report on DGUs with no shots fired.
If you're interested in reading more about the research behind these DGU numbers, consider this 2019 book from author John Lott called “More Guns, Less Crime.”
We researched the topic of armed citizens and their effectiveness in limiting the number of people killed in mass shootings. Here is a link to what we found.
Practical Considerations for “no-shoot” DGUs —
For simplicity, I'll use the term “no-shoot” DGUs to describe a DGU where the defender doesn't shoot.
We should always have a self-defense mindset. We can prepare and anticipate, but ultimately, we react to a deadly threat.
If we bring a gun into the fight at the wrong time, not only can it be a legal problem, but it could unnecessarily escalate the situation. Let me explain.
Drawing the gun to deescalate –
Imagine an argument over a parking space, where the person yells aggressively but doesn't have the means or ability to complete any of the multiple threats he screams. So you draw your everyday carry (EDC) gun in hopes the sight of your handgun will cause him to go away.
At best, you're on very shaky legal grounds with the level of force you're using against a foul-mouthed agitator. The unarmed person isn't scared, and displaying the gun angers them more. The incident turns physical when the person shoves you.
Shooting someone who simply yells and pushes you will be tough to defend.
If you don't shoot the person, you have to defend yourself with one hand while you hold a handgun in the other. It's not an easy task.
You don't want to be the defender in either of those situations.
Drawing the gun gets you shot –
But that isn't even the worst that could happen. In the above situation, let's say you draw your firearm, knowing you are not justified legally to use deadly force but hope it deescalates the problem. If the other person also has a gun and sees you draw a firearm, they may use deadly force against you.
The takeaway should be if you draw your firearm, it should only be when you are legally justified to use deadly force. If displaying the gun deescalates the incident, fantastic, but that shouldn't be the reason for drawing it.
Legal Considerations for “no-shoot” DGUs —
I often hear everyday carriers make some astoundingly misguided statements about defensive gun uses. Unfortunately, the comments are based on or can lead to morally and legally questionable decisions on when to press the trigger.
You better shoot –
The first mistruth is that “if you draw a gun, you better shoot because if you don't, police will charge you with brandishing.”
Let's stop and think of think about this statement for a second.
If you drew your firearm because you perceived an objectively reasonable deadly threat, but when you drew the gun, that person stopped being a deadly threat, how would shooting the gun be more legal than not shooting? In other words, under no circumstance should the justification for shooting your handgun be, “well, I drew it and didn't want to get charged for brandishing, so I shot even though the person was no longer a threat.”
How ridiculous does that sound?
Don't get sued –
Let me ask an honest question. Under what reason could it be legal or moral to kill someone to keep them from suing you? Of course, no reasonable person would find a single justification. But countless people think they should shoot someone because “dead people don't sue.” I wish I were making this up, but numerous comments on social media prove otherwise.
Sorry, this is an evil and deranged mindset. Furthermore, it's ignorant to think you're exempt from a lawsuit if someone dies. Every day, families of the dead file wrongful death lawsuits against the person who killed their family member.
Reporting a “no-shoot” DGU —
Even if the bad guy takes off, immediately report any incident where you brandished a firearm to the police.
Get to a safe location if you must, but contact the police immediately. If you're en route to a safer place, call the police while you move. Tell them you don't feel safe and want to meet an officer to report what just happened.
If possible, ask witnesses to tell police what they saw and get their contact information. If you're able to, grab license plate info to provide to the police if they want to follow up.
The police may write a crime report or just take an incident report to document the facts. Either way, you have told the police your side of the story.
In Closing —
I know that statistically, the vast majority of everyday carriers and those who read this post won't ever have to draw a firearm in self-defense; praise God for that. And an even smaller percentage will have to press a trigger in self-defense.
I don't carry a firearm because of the odds I'll have to use it. I carry a handgun because I am directed to protect my family and the most vulnerable among us. I value human life, so I believe that having the ability and means to intervene but instead sitting back to allow a depraved person to execute defenseless children is cowardly.
Why do you carry a firearm? Leave a comment.
Several of my sheriff friends have told me on separate occasions that 500 times a day in California, the passive use of a gun stops a potential crime. A clerk at a late-night liquor store told me that often rough necks show up and see the pistol strapped on his thigh and leave.
At a community meeting, a nervous lady told a policeman about someone somewhere east of her house had a revolver. She said it made her nervous. The policeman replied that such rumors make burglars and thieves nervous, and they look elsewhere.
Great article, a reminder to always be aware and thinking. Praise God!
I agree with most points in the article, but with one caveat: don’t let your fears of being charged with brandishing make you get behind the power curve in an encounter. There are ways of preparing yourself that don’t involve showing the gun to the bad guy. When I was a street officer, I carried a backup gun that I sometimes drew and held behind my leg when things were getting “sporty”. It’s possible to have your hand on a pocket carried firearm without being obvious about it. Think ahead and stage your response based on what your gut is telling you. If you’re being approached by a hostile person, blade your gun side away from them and move that hand back where they can’t see it. The crooks know *exactly* what that move means, yet, you haven’t brandished. The advice to call the police in any incident where you felt it necessary to access a firearm, no matter at what level, is spot on. You’re not only protecting yourself from accusation of brandishing, you’re being a good citizen. If the bad guy breaks off the encounter with you and goes on to rob another person 2 blocks away because you didn’t report it, you’ve helped no one. Try to at least give a description and last known direction of travel if you can. There’s been more than one time in my experience that such a citizen report has stopped other crimes from happening.
I carry because some people are nuts and don’t care about life. I have never had to use my gun or even consider using it yet. I hope I never do.
That would mean the average number of rounds used in a defensive gun use was 20!
California Democrats are arguing that the average is 2 rounds but I would assume that number includes the majority of times when 0 were used.
Perhaps the Democrats aren’t lying for once and the real average really is 2?