I just completed reading Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance From Citizens and I have to say, this was an excellently presented piece of research that details actual incidences of ordinary citizens protecting themselves, their loved ones, strangers, and property from the intrusions (in various forms) of violent criminals.
As most reasonable people understand, firearms possession is nothing more than a relatively modern manifestation of the most basic and timeless right to self-defense. This right is fundamental to our existence as individually sovereign human beings, inherently free to live our lives to their fullest extents possible while responsibly respecting the sovereign rights and freedoms of others. While just governments are empowered to protect such rights and seek justice for their infringement in the general interest of social order, safety, and prosperity, the sovereign individual nonetheless does not surrender his/her own right to wield force, when necessary, to secure them as well.
The authors of Tough Targets clearly understand this point, correctly pointing out that “…it is simply not possible for police officers to get to every scene where they are urgently needed.” While the study presents quantitative estimates of defensive gun usage ranging from thousands to millions of cases per year, the authors’ work truly shines in its qualitative presentation of individual instances spanning the years 2003-2011. The study insightfully points out that beyond the immediate crime that can be halted with such action there are immeasurable instances of future violent crimes against innocents that are often prevented, either through the ultimate apprehension or death of the criminal in question.
The study also illustrates that the Federal Bureau of Investigation often overstates its criminal murder statistics and explains exactly how in a way that underscores the potential pitfalls associated with unilaterally quantitative assessments of such complex issues. As usual, if we are to understand the whys behind data that is presented to us we must first understand how those data are collected and formulated.
The authors clearly state that their research is not exhaustive or free of inherent quantitative limitations; there is simply no empirical way to conclusively capture every single case of defensive firearm usage in a given period in a country the size of the United States. Such is the unavoidable state of things where wide-sweeping social and legal issues are concerned. But true critical analysis of this issue cannot be encompassed or diligently accomplished solely through statistical or arithmetic means at any rate. Given the Natural Law’s just recognition of the sovereignty of the individual, it naturally follows that relaying the specifics of successful self-defense cases is evidence enough of their appropriateness and morality.
It is worth noting that one of the work’s authors, Clayton Cramer, was chiefly involved in debunking the fraudulently applied research in Michael Bellisiles’ Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture (2000), which can fairly be considered generally anti-gun in nature. Mr. Bellisiles initially won Columbia University’s prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2001 for Arming America but as a result of his unethical approach, the university rescinded the award for the first – and thus far only – time in history.
For an interactive partial geographic database of firearms related self-defense cases that have occurred in the United States since 2004, check out the Cato Institute.