[Editor’s note, April 27th, 2018, 10: 15 am EST: Gary Kleck has removed his research paper online. According to Reason, it was pointed out by National Review’s Robert VerBruggen “that Kleck treats the CDC’s surveys discussed in this paper as if they were national in scope, as Kleck’s original survey was, but they apparently were not. From VerBruggen’s own looks at CDC’s raw data, it seems that over the course of the three years, the following 15 states were surveyed: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. (Those states, from 2000 census data, contained around 27 percent of the U.S. population.)
Informed of this, Kleck says he will recalculate the degree to which CDC’s survey work indeed matches or corroborates” his own studies. An earlier version of Kleck’s paper, published April 25, can be seen here.]
Washington, D.C. – An unpublished study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck’s claims from his 1990s study that indicated there were more than two million defensive handgun uses (also known as DGUs) per year in the United States.
Breitbart reported that “since the early 1990s, Kleck has maintained that there is a minimum of 760,000 DGUs annually. That is his low estimate; Kleck and research partner Marc Gertz have contended the actual number is closer to 2.5 million.” Although Kleck conducted what some have called the most thorough survey of the subject during the 1990s, his findings were disputed. In February 2015, Kleck doubled down his findings and noted that while there were plenty of critics of his work, none have been able to counter his findings with empirical evidence.
While the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is prohibited from using Congressional funding on research that aims “to advocate or promote gun control,” during the 1990s the CDC engaged in research that examined the frequency of innocent Americans using guns for self-defense, and the level of harm from guns used by violent criminals. Kleck recently announced that he has found unpublished data from the CDC.
Kleck’s controversial claims that there were more than 2.2 million defensive gun uses (DGUs) in the United States each year, has now been bolstered by the previously unpublished CDC study. Nonetheless, NPR, citing the National Crime Victimization Survey’s lower estimate of around 100,000 DGUs annually, revisited the DGU controversy last week, apparently oblivious to the existence of the CDC surveys.
In Kleck’s latest research paper, titled “What Do CDC’s Surveys Say About the Frequency of Defensive Gun Uses?”, Kleck claimed that in 1996, 1997, and 1998 the CDC specifically asked about DGUs in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Kleck summarized in his paper:
In 1996, 1997, and 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
conducted large-scale surveys asking about defensive gun use (DGU) in four to six states.
Analysis of the raw data allows the estimation of the prevalence of DGU for those areas.
Estimates based on CDC’s surveys confirm estimates for the same sets of states based on data
from the 1993 National Self-Defense Survey (Kleck and Gertz 1995). Extrapolated to the U.S.
as a whole, CDC’s survey data imply that defensive uses of guns by crime victims are far more
common than offensive uses by criminals. CDC has never reported these results.
A report from Reason magazine quoted Kleck’s reaction to the unpublished CDC study; he explained that a figure of 2.46 million DGUs a year “[implies] that guns were used defensively by victims about 3.6 times as often as they were used offensively by criminals.”