Defensive Gun Use

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Over the past decade, a number of researchers have conducted studies to

measure the prevalence of defensive gun use in the population. However,

disagreement over the definition of defensive gun use and uncertainty over the

accuracy of survey responses to sensitive questions and the methods of data

collection have resulted in estimated prevalence rates that differ by a factor

of 20 or more. These differences in the estimated prevalence rates indicate

either that each survey is measuring something different or that some or

most of them are in error. Accurate measurement on the extent of defensive

gun use is the first step for beginning serious dialogue on the efficacy of

defensive gun use at preventing injury and crime.

For such measurement, the committee recommends that a research program

be established to (1) clearly define and understand what is being measured,

(2) understand inaccurate response in the national gun use surveys,

and (3) apply known methods or develop new methods to reduce reporting

errors to the extent possible. A substantial research literature on reporting

errors in other contexts, as well as well-established survey sampling methods,

can and should be brought to bear to evaluate these response problems.