Who We Kill

For every attacker shot and killed in self-defense, 130 Americans are killed by guns for other reasons.

Americans buy millions of guns for self-defense. Movies and TV consistently reinforce the idea that guns are the best defense against bad guys. But the statistics tell a different story. In real life, when we pick up a gun, we rarely stop or kill criminal attackers.

More often, we kill girlfriends, husbands, children, parents, friends–and ourselves. Handgun advocates tell us that simply owning a firearm deters criminals and increases home security. Maybe that would wash if the stats were, say, 10 to 1. But 130 to 1? In fact, having a gun in your house makes it three times more likely that you or someone you care about will be murdered by a family member or intimate partner. That doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of security.

For every American killed by a firearm in self-defense (see note):

63 commit suicide with firearms

60 are killed in homicides by firearms (see note)

6 die in firearm accidents

1 firearm death is undetermined

Behind the Bullets: Victims of Gun Violence

Sacramento, Calif. October 22, 1995

Cristina McDonald, 17, was out partying with friends in an abandoned quarry. As she sat in a van talking to a friend, a boy she barely knew accidentally shot her in the head with a .22 rifle. Allegedly, the rifle jammed while he was taking shots at beer cans. Mc Donald died the following day.

Irving, Texas July 17, 1995

Rebecca Julian, 6, was shot and killed when a gun accidentally discharged while she played with her brother and a friend, both 5, in a garage near her home. The investigating officer said the shotgun was “leaned up against the wall” and “accessible to the children.”

Everett, Washington November 12, 1995

Glen Fernandez, 29, shot and killed his wife, Sabrina, 25, and their children, Sabrina, 6, and Glen, 5, before shooting himself with a handgun he had purchased to protect his family. Fernandez, who had no criminal record, was distraught because his wife had asked him to leave.

Painesville, Ohio April 8, 1995

Keith Rainey, 24, was visiting a neighborhood convenience store when he was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by retaliatory shooting. A Navy veteran who served in Japan, Rainey bled to death after the bullet penetrated his chest.

Essex, Connecticut October 2, 1995

Writer Leo Damore, 65, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His most renowned book, Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up, sold more than a million copies and made the New York Times bestseller list. Damore was despondent over a divorce.


Definition of homicide: injuries inflicted with intent to kill by another person (includes a statistically insignificant number due to legal interventions by law enforcement).

Definition of justified civilian homicide (self-defense): The killing of a felon during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.

Compiled by the Violence Policy Center; FBI, Department of Health & Human Services 1993 statistics.


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