How Many Defensive Gun Uses by Drug Dealers?

A commonly held view among skeptics of defensive gun uses is that many perhaps most involve criminals defending them-selves from other criminals, such as drug dealers who are stealing from rival dealers. Without question, there are stories that fit that description or where you can read between the lines and get that impression. In February 2008 Washington residents Marcus Bradford, Khiry Jackson and Lawrence Adams went to steal drugs and money from Luis Acevedo. Acevedo shot Bradford to death. While Acevedo was still facing charges it was not for shooting Bradford but for the drugs that Bradford and his associates were there to steal. Still, such stories seem to be sufficiently rare that the data set does not have a separate category for drug dealers defending themselves. A search for the string “drug dealer” in the database found only nine news stories. It is entirely possible that police responding to shootings involving known drug dealers are less inclined to give such individuals the benefit of the doubt on questionable shootings but still, the overwhelming majority of defensive gun use stories involve ordinary and decent people defending themselves against criminals.

 Armed and Female

Some of the other categories are unsurprising. There are 154 defensive gun use stories involving women.

On April 29, 2010, two Colorado residents used pistols to deal with an intruder. Avi Manges grabbed her.38-caliber revolver when she heard an intruder. “I hollered, ‘Who’s there? I’ve got a gun.’” The intruder fled after seeing her and her pistol. The intruder actually attempted to enter a nearby dwelling, where he was confronted and then detained by another pistol-wielding homeowner.

In February 2010 an Albuquerque New Mexico woman called 911 to report a break-in attempt and while she was on the phone to police, two men forced their way into the house. She shot one of them in the head.

On June 9, 2009, Marty Impastato reacted to a home invasion in Southern Illinois. She confronted an acquaintance who gained entry through an unlocked window and was rifling through the “safe where the family keeps jewelry and prescription drugs.” Impastato shot the intruder.

It is difficult to say whether the relatively sparse population of armed females represents news media selection bias or simply the disparity between women and men on gun ownership. Women represent a more attractive target to male criminals, either because they are on average smaller and weaker or because the criminal is looking for a rape victim.


There are 25 news stories where rapists discovered that the victim was able to fight back. Take the case of a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who, after being raped, disarmed her attacker and then held him for the police. It was later found that the perpetrator had “an extensive criminal history, dating back 20 years, and many of the offenses involved sexual conduct with children.”

Sometimes a gun prevents a rape from happening again. On October 31, 2008, a Missouri woman shot and killed Ronnie W.Preyer, 47, “a registered sex offender who had broken into her home early one morning with the intention of raping her a second time.”

Shockingly, when it comes to resisting sexual assault, resources are few and effective armed resistance is not considered an option by certain law enforcement agencies. Instead, the Illinois State Police advise victims to claim they have AIDS, forcibly inducing vomiting, or fighting back with nail files or keys. The city of Davis, California, suggests mace or whistles, but also recommends urinating or defecating.

Consequently, females should become a special focus for self-defense advocates, teaching not just the means and methods, but the mindset to resist an assailant. If more rapists expected their would-be targets to resist with force, a reduction in the rate of such crimes would seem inevitable.

Armed Minors

Another category is minors—those under 18 years of age. There are 21 reports where minors used a gun in self-defense or to defend family members. In November2008 a 16-year-old boy shot his mother’s ex-husband on the front lawn in Kansas City, Missouri. The woman had divorced him two years before because of abuse. “But at 2:30a.m., he suddenly barged into her home. She said he pulled out a knife and dragged her into the front yard, and that was when she said her son grabbed a gun from the house and pulled the trigger, hitting his ex-stepfather in the stomach.”

Some of these incidents are more dramatic, but hopefully less traumatic to the defender. A Baton Rouge, Louisiana, boy who was left home alone with his sister shot an intruder who tried to kick in the door of their apartment. The 10-year-old retrieved his mother’s gun from a closet, and shot Roderick Porter, who was, by then, inside.

These stories are not meant to suggest children can or should be armed, but they do show that minors often do possess the mental faculties to identify a threat and when presented the means and ability to neutralize that threat to do so. Along with minors using guns in self-defense, we also tracked defensive gun uses where the criminals were minors. At least 141 instances involved at least one criminal identified as being under 18 years old.

Armed Seniors

One of the points often made in public debates about gun ownership is that even if you are young and strong and are able to protect yourself from an unarmed attacker you may not be able to do so after you pass the age of 65. Consequently, the data set tracks defensive gun uses by the elderly with 201 such incidents. In May 2010 an elderly Pennsylvania couple held a burglar at gunpoint outside their Stroudsburg home. Devin Tyler Ayala, 24, forced entry into the home, which set off a burglar alarm. The 68-year-old wife screamed, and the 74-year-old husband came downstairs with a gun, and was able to hold Ayala for the police.

In March 2010 Stephen Pritchett attacked an 82-year-old woman in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Pritchett approached the woman and said, “This is your day. You are too old to be alive anyway.” He then “grabbed her cane and started beating her.” At that point, she drew a handgun and fired at Pritchett. She did not hit him, but unsurprisingly, the gunshot drew attention to her problem, bringing employees and then police.

Students and Firearms

If “decrease in ability to fight back” is positively correlated with “escalation in crime” then college campuses may be an exception to that rule. The rate of crime across America’s institutions of higher learning is statistically less than the rates in cities, neighbor-hoods, and homes. Yet, because colleges have become the target of many high profile shootings, there is still a lurking fear for where the next multiple victim shooting incident will be. Coupled with this, reports now indicate the rate of crimes on college campuses is rising at a time when overall crime rates are in decline. In a report by the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Department of Education the numbers collected since 1900 show that crimes of every nature are on the rise on college campuses. Out of 110 years of data collected and studied, the past two decades account for 60 percent of the total number of crimes committed. In 2008 there were 3,287rapes, 60 killings, 5,026 assaults, and 4,562robberies committed across college campuses. Statistically, combining college campuses nationwide, there are about 9 sexual assaults per day.

Certainly there are more college students in the last two decades as a percentage of the population than formerly. Perhaps the increased availability of student loans (and increasingly favorable attitude towards debt-financed education) is spurring more college attendance, and thus rising crime. Regardless, one wonders what the rate of crime would look like if defensive gun use were introduced as an option on college campuses. What if the Virginia Tech massacre could have been cut short like the New Life church shooting in Colorado? The rising crime rates and high profile occurrences of mass shootings has led to the formation of a grassroots student led organization known as Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, organized after the Virginia Tech incident to advocate restoring concealed carry to college campuses. As a silent protest, group members wear empty holsters to symbolize being defenseless.

Many critics question increasing the availability of firearms for students, citing students’ proclivity towards vice and rebellion once they reach the newfound independence of a college environment. This concern reflects a view that approaches stereotyping and prejudice, casting students as irresponsible by nature. The same charges are often leveled by the same critics opposing the carrying of arms altogether, yet their dire predictions seldom come true. The age requirement for ownership and the concealed carry of handguns remains the same regardless of education, yet in order to monitor their frequency, the authors began tracking the occurrence of legally armed college students engaging in acts of defensive gun use off campus. There were a total of 14 stories.

For example, a September 19, 2005, story from the Macon, Georgia, Telegraph reports how a Mercer University law student shot and killed a man who broke into his home. A student from Orem, Utah, possessed a concealed carry permit and was forced to fire on an attacking pit bull in 2007. The animal survived the shooting and, at the shooter’s behest, the animal was not euthanized. And in August 2008 a student in Hilton Head, South Carolina, displayed a pistol toward off a road rage driver wielding a baseball bat.

These are stories of successful defensive gun use across the nation by members of the population considered to be college aged, and thus presumed likely to be rebellious or irresponsible. One neglected fact is that college “gun-free zones” also forbid visitors from carrying for protection—and such visitors could include any one of the thousands of responsibly armed citizens. As supporters of gun rights often point out, every day millions of guns were not used to kill. They passively existed, perhaps only in a gun safe. Like a seat belt, these guns were a safety measure that was available for protection in the event of an emergency, but not used. It should be noted that students are permitted to carry firearms for self-defense at no less than 25 college campuses, primarily in Colorado and Utah. Many other colleges allow defensive carry on university sidewalks and in libraries but not in classrooms. In fact, after Colorado’s 2003 concealed carry law was enacted, Colorado State University decided to allow concealed carry, while the University of Colorado prohibited firearms. The former observed a rapid de-cline in reported crimes, while the latter, under the gun ban they claimed was for safety, observed a rapid increase in crime. Crime at the University of Colorado has risen 35 percent since 2004, while crime at Colorado State University has dropped 60 percent in the same time frame.

The effect on criminal behavior is perhaps the clearest illustration. Criminals obtain firearms just like they obtain drugs—illegally. Therefore it stands to reason that few criminals are going to be deterred from committing a crime on a college campus due to the threat of expulsion or arrest. Nor does it seem likely that a would-be robber would be deterred because of stickers on the doors announcing that armed robbery is severely frowned upon by the student code of conduct. Conversely, a campus that allows concealed carry, and where even one student, professor, or even a member of the maintenance staff is armed, would present a much riskier target to criminals. Thus, comprehensive bans on defensive carry of arms at postsecondary institutions should be re-examined.