Violence Policy Center Pushes Deadly Myths

Should women buy guns for self-defense? According to a Violence Policy Center study, the claim that women can protect themselves with guns is a myth. Unfortunately the statistical analysis they use to make this case is absurd and an excellent example of how poorly designed statistical analyses are used to deceive.

The actual statistics cited by the VPC are accurate enough. In 1998 only twelve women shot and killed an attacker in a justifiable act of self defense. In the same year, about 1,100 women were murdered by attackers who used handguns. Since a woman is more than 100 times as likely to be killed with a handgun than use a handgun to kill an attacker, the VPC argues that the notion that handguns are a viable option for self-defense is ridiculous.

The problem with this claim is it assumes the only time a woman successfully uses a handgun to defend herself is when she shoots and kills a would-be attacker. What about the woman who shoots her attacker, thereby disabling him, but he survives? Not an act of self-defense according to the VPC. What about the woman who pulls a gun on her attacker causing the attacker to flee without the woman firing a shot? Not an act of self-defense according to the VPC.

We know from analysis of handgun use by police and private individuals that when a person uses a gun in self-defense, rarely does that use result in the individual actually firing the gun, and rarer still does the use of a gun in self-defense result in the death of the attacker. The mere presence of a gun is often more than enough to convince an attacker to flee the scene rather than risk serious injury or death.

By focusing equating successful self defense with the death of a perpetrator, the VPC tries to mislead women by drastically diminishing their likely usefulness in defending against an attacker. The VPC should be ashamed of itself for giving out such distorted information and perpetuating its own deadly myth.


A Deadly Myth: Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense. The Violence Policy Center, January 2001.

Leave a Reply