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Social Problems: 62 (1)

Co-Editors

Pamela Anne QuirozNilda Flores-González

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Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force

Gary Kleck
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/800663 1-21 First published online: 1 February 1988

Abstract

Legal defensive violence by private citizens armed with firearms is a significant form of social control in the United States. Evidence indicates that private gun use against violent criminals and burglars is common and about as frequent as legal actions like arrests, is a more prompt negative consequence of crime than legal punishment and is often far more severe. In 1980 about 1,500-2,800 felons were legally killed by gun-wielding civilians, about 8,700-16,000 were nonfatally wounded and guns were used defensively about one million times. Victim resistance with guns is associated with lower rates of both victim injury and crime completion for robberies and assaults than any other victim action, including nonresistance. Survey and quasi-experimental evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that the private ownership and use of firearms deters criminal behavior.

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