People like to argue that they need guns to protect themselves. About 250 Americans manage to shoot a bad guy per year. Granted many more of them may protect themselves without shooting the bad guy, so we have to take what follows with a big grain of salt. It’s impossible to estimate this protective effect without making a lot of assumptions. For example, it’s hard to know how often that “This property is protected by Smith & Wesson” sign works, but I imagine it occasionally does.
Given that important caveat, let’s do the math on what remains. After all, we’re interested in how often bullets wind up in bad guys, not how often guns protect us.
What we find is this:
One justified gun death per 2 accidental deaths.
Five justified deaths per accidental child death.
About 1000 illegal deaths per justified death.article continues after advertisement
About 100 suicides per justified death.
About 100 homicides per 2 justified deaths.
Those odds are way worse than flipping a coin. At least then a gun would have a 50% chance of killing a bad guy. But no. A person pulling the trigger on a gun is most likely to be shooting themselves, then their family, then commit a felony, then way, way, way down the line, if they’re lucky, they hit a bad guy.
To add some more painful perspective, you are about 1500 times more likely to be shot by a true American than by a terrorist. Hunters, true Americans according to many, accidentally shoot about 1000 people a year, roughly 50 times more than terrorists. About 500 people a year are killed by mass shooters, still putting terrorists to shame.
It’s totally reasonable to argue that the odds of shooting a bad guy without a gun are zero. But it’s a bit like drinking a steady regimen of Drano to prevent parasites that may not ever actually appear. It’s not wise, but it could work.
The reality seems to be that when our bullets don’t wind up in non-human animals or street signs, then when you use one to shoot someone, about 99 times out of a 100, you will commit a felony, shoot yourself, or shoot someone by accident. In one out of a hundred cases, you shoot the bad guy.