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Do Guns Save Lives?

by Dr. Michael S. Brown

July 6, 2002

"Guns Save Lives" is the fitting title of a book about citizens who successfully defended themselves with a gun. This is the second such book by Robert A. Waters, whose first effort, "The Best Defense," was wildly popular with gun owners and political activists. 

The heart of the book is a collection of stories that Waters developed after studying police reports, reading news stories and interviewing actual participants. In spite of the thorough preparation, this is anything but a reference book. It reads more like an action novel in which each chapter contains a suspenseful climax.

Reading all 46 cases in quick succession allows the reader to see profound patterns in these violent events. The most obvious common thread is the unfortunate fact that the police can't be there when you need them and violent assailants often prefer surprise attacks to prevent victims from calling for help. Even if you are able to call, terrible events can transpire in the deadly interval after one dials 911.

Students of the gun will notice an interesting pattern in how many people successfully defend themselves with tiny weapons, like .22, .25 and .32 caliber handguns that are often derided by the anti-gun lobby as "junk guns" and "Saturday night specials." In many cases however, the marginal stopping power of these little guns prompt the citizen survivors to purchase something bigger at the first opportunity.

One interesting example involving small handguns occurred in 1997. A high-strung robber armed with a shotgun attempted to rob a crowded restaurant. Two customers with permits to carry a concealed handgun were watching events unfold, each unaware of the other. The robber became incensed when the terrified waitress couldn't open the till. Both armed citizens, fearing the worst, fired simultaneously, each using .22 magnum revolvers. The robber was hit once. His plan ruined, he ran outside to the getaway car, breaking his shotgun on the doorframe as he ran.

This particular robber then demonstrated what appears to be a common behavior for his species. It seems that many criminals flee after receiving a minor wound and are later apprehended by police when they seek treatment at a local hospital. 

But don't think the stories are all clean little tales of good over evil. The most striking common theme is the extreme brutality that criminals apply to their innocent victims. Lawbreakers willing to commit a crime like a home invasion robbery are fully prepared to mete out extreme physical violence or death. Their disregard for their victims is chillingly inhuman.

Many of the victims in these stories suffered terrible wounds, but still found the courage to fight back. Gunfights are desperate, life and death affairs that almost always occur when the intended victim least expects it. 

A speaker at the original Million Mom March once said: "If someone comes at you with a knife or gun, say, 'I know you're upset.' We all want to be valued as human beings." The sheer lunacy of that statement will be dreadfully apparent after reading "Guns Save Lives."

One horrific case describes the ordeal of a woman who survived a vicious knife attack by a convicted murderer/rapist in her home. Severely wounded and bleeding, she struggled to remove a trigger lock from her handgun while her 11-year old son fought heroically with the intruder. Shooting the man did more than simply save two lives, it prevented the untold pain and suffering of his future victims. 

Almost all of the attackers in these stories were on parole, probation, or were released early. Criminologists tell us that a small minority of repeat offenders commits the overwhelming majority of crimes. The average serial rapist, for example, strikes twenty times before he is caught or killed. 

Many future crimes are prevented when one of these predators is shot by an intended victim. When he is shot, there is little doubt about his guilt. If he survives, there isn't much chance that he will escape justice, no matter what legal maneuvers are applied. 

Waters reports that he has over 6,000 armed self-defense incidents in his files and many are available on line through "Operation Self Defense." They are primarily gleaned from local news reports, since the national media maintains a de-facto blackout on self-defense stories. 

Media decision-makers would have us believe that such stories are of no interest to a national audience, but we are also told that the networks are hungry for stories with emotion and human interest. The refusal to acknowledge these dramatic events understandably draws charges of media bias.

Thanks to Waters and his supporters, we may eventually see more armed self-defense stories in the national media. Journalists, news-oriented web sites, politicians, and scholars subscribe to his email list that distributes reports of recent incidents.

How many lives could be saved if the national media reversed course and began covering armed self-defense stories? Crime rates might plummet as thousands of rapists and burglars sought safer careers. Network news ratings would soar as viewers found something more inspiring than the usual diet of celebrities and scandal.

"Guns Save Lives" should be available soon from or immediately from the publisher listed below. After you and your friends have enjoyed reading it, pass it on to a local television news producer or newspaper editor. 

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws. Email the author at:


"Guns Save Lives" by Robert A. Waters may be ordered directly from the publisher: Loompanics Unlimited

Operation Self Defense lists many self defense stories.


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Both the oligarch and Tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms. Aristotle

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