The gun as a self-defense mechanism fallacy

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In a country which continues to be incredibly unsafe for ordinary citizens, many are resorting to the acquiring of firearms to defend themselves and their families from intruders. However, don’t be too quick in buying these weapons. Research shows that by purchasing a firearm to protect your family, you are in fact doing the direct opposite. By purchasing a firearm, you are putting them at far more danger…

South Africa experiences 56 murders a day, with 23 of these victims cause of death being as a result of gunshot wounds. Stats SA data on this issue found that one third of households surveyed do not go to open spaces as a result of the threat of crime. This survey also showed that just less than a quarter of all respondents questioned prevent their children from playing outside for the same reason.

In this climate individuals are increasingly turning towards the acquiring of gun licenses to protect themselves and their families. Before you do so however, a quick evaluation of the statistics may make you think twice. 

Studies in two Johannesburg police precincts show that you are four times more likely to be shot at if you use your gun in self-defense. These statistics are corroborated from statistics from the USA, in which a study in Philadelphia found that are between 4 and 5 times more likely to be shot if you have a gun in your possession when you are attached, compared to someone to someone who was not carrying their firearm. 

Contrary to common wisdom international research shows us that guns that are used for the purpose of self-defense are 32 times more likely to criminally murder an individual than kill someone in self-defense.

Ironically buying a gun to defend yourself actually has the effect of equipping criminals. In the period of 2017/2018 in South Africa some 8 867 guns were either lost or stolen. Between the periods of 2004/2005 in South Africa, 95% of all civilian gun losses were reported as stolen. Thus, by buying a gun you are indirectly arming the criminals which you are trying to guard against by buying the very gun in the first place. A statistic which paints an even more sinister picture is that a stolen gun is used in on average of 5 crimes. 

Finally, a gun in one’s household is far more likely to be used to commit murder, suicide or to threaten and intimidate someone known to the shooter than to be used against an intruder. Plainly put if a husband buys a gun to protect his wife and his family, this gun is statistically more likely to be used against their family by the husband themselves than in the defense of an intruder.  

Plainly put, the solution to protecting yourself and your family from the threat from an intruder does not lay is not buying a firearm to protect yourself. Doing so statistically has the opposite effect. 


Mikhail Petersen holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Politics and Economic History as well as an LLB from UCT.