Many Guns Owned for Defense

From the March 31, 1995, statement of Tulane University criminologist James Wright before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary:

My fourth observation is that many firearms are also owned for self-defense against crime, that some are indeed used for that purpose, and, whether they are actually any safer or not, many people certainly seem to feel safer when they have a gun. Findings have been mentioned this morning from recent work done by my colleague Gary Kleck at Florida State University that Americans use guns to protect themselves from crime as often as a couple of million times a year, a finding that I know the other panelist Dr. Bordua will discuss in more detail. If this is true, it's very hard to square with the common assumption of gun control advocates that guns are not efficacious as a private defense against crime.

Whatever the true number of self-defensive uses proves to be, about a quarter of all gun owners, and about 40% of handgun owners mention defense against crime as the main reason they owned a gun, and large percentages who give some other main reason will mention self-defense as a secondary reason.

Gun owners and gun advocates insist that guns provide real protection, as indeed the panel that preceded us testified, and indeed as Gary Kleck's findings suggest. Anti-gun advocates insist that the sense of security is more illusory than real. But the fact is practically everything people do to defend against crime provides only the illusion of security, in that any such measure can be defeated by a sufficiently clever and motivated criminal.

Most people have realized, no doubt correctly, that the police cannot protect them from crime. So people face the need to protect themselves, and many choose to own a gun along with taking many other measures for precisely this purpose. My question is whether a society that is manifestly incapable of protecting its citizens from crime really has any right or moral authority to tell people what they may or may not do to protect themselves.