Gun control proponents want legislation that will restrict access to firearms. The rationale for such legislation is to reduce accidental shootings and the criminal use of guns against people. But if harm reduction is the goal, policymakers should pause to consider how many crimes--murders, rapes, assaults, robberies--are thwarted by ordinary persons who were fortunate enough to have access to a gun. Gun control proponents cannot deny that people use guns successfully against criminals, but they tend to play down how often such events take place. The purpose of this map is to draw more attention to this aspect of the firearms policy debate.

Two additional points are worth noting. First, the map is not comprehensive. Criminals will often flee the scene when they discover that their intended target has a gun. With no shots fired, no injuries, and no suspect in custody, news organizations may report nothing at all. Thus, it is important to remember that news reports can only provide us with an imperfect picture of defensive gun use in America. Second, when a citizen is able to shoot an attacker or hold a rapist or robber until the police arrive, it is very likely that more than one crime has been prevented because if the culprit had not been stopped, he could have targeted other citizens as well. The bottom line is that gun owners stop a lot of criminal mayhem every year.