Armed Civilians Stop Huge Numbers of Violent Crimes

  • by LtCol Tim Wilson
  • 12-12-2021

Fact: armed citizens stop more crime than police! Data strongly suggest that armed citizens stop more than 7,000 murders and 60,000 rapes each year. The numbers could be as high as 20,000 murders and 175,000 rapes. Yet some want to take guns away from potential victims?

So who is responsible for protecting you - individually and specifically - from harm by another? Put differently, if you’re attacked, is it the legal responsibility of the police to protect you?

         No! In 2005, in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court made it completely clear:

         "It is well-settled fact of American law that the police have no legal duty to protect any individual citizen from crime, even if the citizen has received death threats and the police have negligently failed to provide protection."

         If the nation is threatened, the Defense Department is responsible. If there’s large scale unrest, the governor may call out the Guard. For smaller situations there are state and local police offices and special units. Local police provide for general public safety, investigate crimes, and provide an overarching deterrence against crime. But defending your family, personally and specifically? That’s your problem.

         Are the police supposed to prevent crime? Except by their presence, a form of deterrence, the answer is no. The police are not here to protect you personally from crime. As the Supreme Court has said, it’s on you.

         Further, it is a time - distance impossibility. In New York, with one of the very best 9-1-1 call to response records, it still takes on average more than 4 minutes to respond to a 9-1-1- call in which the dispatcher has been told that a violent crime is taking place. In most other cities and towns the time to respond is greater. As most violent crimes take less than 3 minutes to execute, there is a real problem, and it’s on you to solve it if you are the victim.

         So, how many crimes are committed each year? (the numbers below are from the FBI and represent the last year for which complete statistics are available):

               In 2019: 1,203,808 violent crimes nationwide (down 0.5% from 2018) 

               Of note, the 2019 violent crime total was 0.4% above 2015, but 3.8% below 2010

                  Murders - 16,425 - 1.36% of violent crimes

                  Rapes - 139,815 rapes - 11.61% of violent crimes

         Here’s a question - for which there is no hard answer: how many murders and rapes did the police actually stop??? That the police did stop a violent crime is more a matter of luck - being present at the appropriate time, than anything else, except in the sense, mentioned above, that the fact of the police, their simple existence, acts as deterrent to some people.

         But until recently, the FBI did not collect and report information on how many crimes were prevented by armed citizens. The National Rifle Association has long reported that the number of crimes prevented each year exceeds 2 million, but that number has been discounted because the NRA is seen as partisan. One could as well discount the FBI as partisan, as it might wish to downplay the number of crimes prevented by citizens absent the deterrent effect of organized police forces.

         But now the FBI has said that at least 500,000 crimes are prevented each year by armed citizens and the number may well exceed 1.5 million crimes each year (one estimate put the number at more than 2 million).

         If this is so, and there is no reason to believe it is not, and assuming that the averages of crimes committed is the same for crimes prevented, then the following number of murders and rapes are prevented each year by people with firearms...

         Murders:             6,800 - 20,400

         Rapes:                58,050 -174,150

         The other piece to this is that most police forces do not have a mechanism in place to collect data on “crimes prevented.” Once we wrap our heads around that it is readily apparent that the real number is more likely at the high end of the FBI estimate.

         If that is the case, what the numbers reports is that more than half of all possible violent crime in the United States is prevented by armed citizens. When this is placed next to the realization that overall crime numbers have dropped or remained flat year to year over the past several decades, even as private firearm ownership has climbed, it is quite clear that private firearm ownership is central to reducing crime.

         Stated differently, more than half of all would-be crimes are prevented by regular citizens.

         Now, it could be argued that millions of crimes are prevented each year because the criminals know the police are there. But that’s the thing - they know the police are there. That fact is already accounted for. They - the bad guys - are going to commit the crime. Except they are stopped by an armed citizen.

         Let’s close with this one simple thought: if the 139,000 women who were raped in 2019 were armed, how many of them would have been raped?


 Tim Wilson is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a retired British Army Officer and a proud American citizen.


Pete O’Brien is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a retired Naval Officer and a successful business owner.