Gun Control: Violence Policy Center Proves That More Guns Means Less Crime

Written by Howard Nemerov
Friday, March 03, 2006


In 1986, Kellermann and Reay studied gunshot deaths in a single county in Washington state. They concluded: “We noted 43 suicides, criminal homicides, or accidental gunshot deaths involving a gun kept in the home for every case of homicide for self-protection.”[1]


In 2005, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science said this about Kellerman’s and Reay’s conclusions:


Kellermann and Reay find that there were nearly 5 times as many homicides and 37 times as many suicides as perpetrators killed in self-defense. They go on to conclude, “The advisability of keeping a firearm in the home for protection must be questioned.”


Although the facts are in no doubt, the conclusions do not seem to follow. Certainly, effective defensive gun use need not ever lead the perpetrator to be wounded or killed. Rather, to assess the benefits of self-defense, one needs to measure crime and injury averted. The particular outcome of an offender is of little relevance.[2]

Kellermann Syndrome?

Ever since Kellermann laid out the template, gun controllers have used this flawed logic process to “prove” that guns are a dangerous liability in the hands of civilians. As the National Academy of Science notes, selecting an iota of data and extrapolating it over a geometrically larger scale results in conclusions of “little relevance” to statistical reality. If Kellermann’s perception was accurate, the NRA would have long since ceased to exist: its firearms-owning members would be dead or in jail!


Violence Policy Center examined part of the 2003 fatal injury data from the Centers for Disease Control, and concluded that the ten most deadly states for “per capita gun death” were “pro-gun.” VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann concluded: “All of these states pride themselves on being ‘pro-gun’—but the numbers show that guns kill.”[3]


The problem is that it is impossible to tell much from isolated data, in this case one column of data from a complex chart that includes both intentional and accidental fatal injuries of all causes, not just firearms. This is the moving keyhole effect: if you point it at only the data you want to see, you can prove anything.


The first indication there is something wrong with the VPC study is their exclusion of the District of Columbia, obviously not “pro-gun” by VPC criteria due to their ban of all functioning civilian firearms.[4] Oxford English Dictionary defines a “state” as: “a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.” By this definition Washington, D.C. qualifies for inclusion, yet VPC ignores D.C. while including less-populous Wyoming. Washington, D.C. would appear first on this list.

Going Head-to-Head With VPC Data

A phone call to VPC asking them to define their criteria of “pro-gun” went unreturned. Lacking a clear explanation of what they construe to be “pro-gun,” one known criterion applying to VPC’s “top 10” states is that they all have shall-issue, right-to-carry (RTC) laws.

           Using the CDC data referenced by VPC, it is apparent that in 2003, RTC states had a higher average fatal injury rate for all intents and causes than non-RTC states. Further examination shows that RTC states had higher overall rates of suicide and fatal accidents, accounting for 85.8% of all fatal injuries. This indicates more complex dynamics than simple civilian firearm inventory. Also, we don’t know if legally purchased firearms were used in these incidents, nor if the people involved were in legal possession of the firearms.


2003 CDC Fatal Injury Data – Average Rates per 100,000 Population[5]


All Intents





All Causes


All Causes


All Causes


All Causes




















% Diff.










*Iowa and Ohio were officially RTC states in 2004, but their RTC laws were well on the way to enactment in 2003, so these two states are considered “pro-gun.”


Here is where it gets interesting: While homicides account for 10.8% of all fatal injuries, firearms homicides account for 39.6% of all fatal firearm injuries. When it comes to violent crime and homicide rates, non-RTC states are the most dangerous, whether citing FBI or CDC data. Even if we select data according to VPC criteria, and compare only the 10 RTC and non-RTC states with the highest total firearm injury rates, RTC states are safer. This means that when it comes to criminals with guns, RTC states are the safest places to live.

FBI 2003 Crime Rates[6]


All States

Top 10 “Gun Death”
















% Diff.





VPC’s argument is that more guns equals more fatal firearm injuries. VPC’s Executive Director links higher “gun death” to the “pro-gun” states, stating that the reason these states have more “gun death” is because “guns kill,” thereby implying that more guns cause more fatal injuries. Therefore, by promulgating the theory that guns are a causative factor, VPC proves by its own logic that more guns means less violent crime.


We have determined that people living in certain states seem to be more suicidal, and may be more accident-prone, drink too often, or need safety training. These are complex social issues beyond simple availability of firearms. In the area of malicious intent, the “non-pro-gun” states have higher rates of overall violence and homicide, whether the killer uses a firearm or not.


In their rush to demonize guns, Violence Policy Center stumbled into a logic-trap: either they must admit their criterion proves that more guns means less crime, or they must admit their conclusions are based upon unsound reasoning.


(If you would like a copy of the spreadsheet compiled to analyze this data, email a request with desired document format.)

[1] Protection or Peril?: An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home, Arthur L. Kellermann and Donald T. Reay, 314 New Eng. J. Med. 1557-60 1986, page 1560.

[2] Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, Wellford, Pepper, Petrie, et al, Copyright 2005, page 118.

[3] “Pro-Gun” States Lead Nation in Per Capita Firearm Death Rates New Violence Policy Center Analysis Reveals, Violence Policy Center.

[4] States Ranked by Firearms Death Rate, 2003, Violence Policy Center.

[5] WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports, 1999-2003. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control.

[6] Table 4: Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2003-2004, FBI Crime in the States, 2004, pages 76-85.


About the Writer: Howard Nemerov began doing his own research into gun control when he recognized that the media was full of distortions and half truths. He publishes with ChronWatch and other sites, and is a frequent guest on NRA News. He is currently working on his first book, Gun Control: Fear or Fact, which deconstructs and explains the gun control agenda and its arguments, debunking each one with a statistic-rich analysis. This is the handbook for when you want to talk to others about gun control. Howard receives e-mail [HNemerov (at-sign)] .