The world is fascinatingly complex yet important truths are often simple. We shouldn’t take that too far since most simple answers are also wrong or incomplete. That tension helps make life so interesting as we try to understand the world around us. For example, we saw violent crime increase in the last few years. Should we try to keep violent criminals away from guns, or should we try to keep violent criminals away from us? Is the tool dangerous or is the person dangerous? Let’s look at both ideas and see if there are any simple answers to be found.

When we look for simple solutions we see that criminals use guns to commit violence. That sounds like the case is closed but there is more evidence to uncover. If we keep looking then we find that innocent victims also use firearms to stop violence. That means the answers are not black and white but shades of gray.

When we look at all firearms we see that a vanishingly small fraction of the guns owned by civilians were used in violent crime each year (1 in 1400). Now we look deeper and find out that honest citizens used a firearm for self-defense over 1.6 million times a year. That is more people than live in New Hampshire or Hawaii. Each year, more people use a firearm for self-defense than the population of Wyoming and Vermont combined. Armed defense is common.

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