Self Defense Shootings: Why Are They Rarely Reported?

Self Defense. Image Source: NRA

Gun Rights vs Gun Control is a seemingly never-ending debate in America. Part of the reason the debate rages on lies in the reporting of self defense shootings, or lack thereof.

Occasionally a self defense, or defensive gun use, story will make the local news. Rarely do they ever make national news; unless they rise to the level of stopping a mass murderer, terrorist attack or something. OR… There is some reason to question the justification of self defense or play up some other angle; race, religion, immigration status, celebrity, etc.

Everyone knows the names Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. How about Ollie Lee Drummer or the anonymous armed homeowner who shot him? Don’t bother Googling Mr. Drummer. You won’t find much. Just a short blurb announcing that Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton ruled the homeowner who shot him acted in self-defense. You’ll also find his rap sheet, obituary and funeral announcement, but that is pretty much it.

A Typical Self Defense Story.

The story goes pretty much like this:

Flint, MI.

Police responded at 1:14 a.m. on Nov. 30 to reports of a person who was shot at a residence in the 1900 block of Joliet Street.

Leyton said Ollie Lee Drummer, 59, was allegedly armed with a knife and breaking into a vehicle parked outside the residence.

“The homeowner told police that he was coming at him with the knife in his hands at the time the homeowner shot him,” Leyton said.

Drummer was taken to Hurley Medical Center where he later died.

Leyton said the homeowner was acting in self-defense when he shot Drummer and there will be no criminal charges.

Ollie Lee Drummer. Killed by homeowner acting in self defense. Image Source: Michigan Dept. of Corrections

Ollie Lee Drummer. Killed by homeowner acting in self defense. Image Source: Michigan Dept. of Corrections

So, why is that all the coverage this incident received?

Well, as I said, Mr. Drummer had a rap sheet; Breaking and Entering, Assault with Intent to Rob while Armed and Home Invasion – 2nd Degree. Mr. Drummer, when caught breaking into a vehicle, allegedly advanced on the homeowner, knife in hand, and was shot. Pretty cut and dried self defense, right? The homeowner’s name, age, race, etc… wasn’t even published.

Chalk it up to “public service”? Bad guy off the street, no controversial circumstances, nothing to see here folks.

Except that there IS SOMETHING TO SEE THERE! For one, a man lost his life, which I’m sure is of great consequence to his family. An unknown homeowner in Michigan is now dealing with the realization that they had to take a life. Then there is the “Big Picture!” The gun debate narrative.

Incidents like this one in Michigan happen all over the country, every day. We recently reported on two that actually received at least some media coverage. Armed Texas Dad Defends Family In Popeyes Restaurant Robbery and Armed 85-Year-Old Veteran Takes Down Burglars. Why did those two get attention? One happened in a public place and the other was an elderly man who fought off two intruders. Otherwise, they would have been overlooking just like the death of Ollie Drummer.

Therein lies the problem, “The Narrative.” Mass shootings and terrorist attacks get 24/7 news coverage for days. However, in the grand scheme of things both are very rare. Though even ONE mass shooting or terrorist attack is too many. Compared to defensive gun uses, mass casualty events are statistical anomalies. BUT… mass casualty events drive ratings and feed “The Narrative” that guns are “killing machines” PERIOD. End of story. Defensive gun use stories do occasionally make headlines, though they are viewed largely as “exceptions to the rule,” which is guns bad.

The Narrative and the Truth.

In January 2017, the New York Times editorial board opined, “The grim truth is that concealed-carry permit holders are rarely involved in stopping crime.” The Violence Policy center cited in the Times article also admitted that “for the five-year period 2007 through 2011, the total number of self-protective behaviors involving a firearm by victims of attempted or completed violent crimes or property crimes totaled only 338,700.” That’s 67,740 times a year on average.

Estimates of the number of defensive gun uses vary wildly. They range from low-end estimates in the range of 55,000 to 80,000 incidents per year to as high as 4.7 million per year. The wide range of these estimates are due to methodology differences and definitions of “defensive gun use.” Some estimates only count incidents where the gun was fired while others account for instances where showing the firearm ended the threat without incident.

As in Mr. Drummer’s case, the homeowner who shot him doesn’t appear to want attention. Having taken a life, I’m sure they have enough to deal with, without adding a media circus to the mix. What little reporting was done didn’t have any eye-catching, click bait hook to drive readership or ratings. It was only reported to police, because someone died. Otherwise, it’s likely that only the homeowner and criminal would have known an incident took place on the 1900 block of Joliet Street in Flint, MI.

Lack of reporting is NOT the same as lack of occurrence.

There are over 300 million people in America and about as many guns. According to the “NEWS,” those guns are used almost exclusive to do “bad things.” Some journalists, if they think it will generate ratings, will cover an occasional self defense shooting. Yet, overwhelmingly what you see on the “NEWS” will be guns portrayed in the worst possible light. “Common Sense” is not nearly as common as the name implies, but is necessary when seeking truth. Common Sense tells us that if 300 million Americans have 300 million guns used almost exclusively to kill innocent people, then half or more of us should be dead already. Obviously, that is NOT the case.

The most “anti-gun” statistics I could find claim that there are an average of 12,000 gun homicides a year. That’s according to the Bloomberg group, Everytown For Gun Safety. Now, compare that to the lowest of the low-end defensive gun use estimates of 55,000 a year. Almost 5 times as many defensive gun uses as gun homicides. They also say that for every death, there are two more injured with a gun. That’s 36,000 gun deaths or injuries a year, which is still less that the lowest estimates for defensive gun use.

Self Defense isn’t sexy or sensational in most instances, therefore it isn’t worth reporting. It’s not always a “good guy with a gun” taking out a “bad guy with a gun” either. It’s just average Americans, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, practicing self defense. Whether they fire their weapon or not, merely having it is often enough to keep a bad situation from getting much worse. Few people involved in self defense situations want the media attention. They just want to go on about their lives, glad that they still have lives to go on with. Their stories aren’t “newsworthy,” because they don’t serve either “The Narrative” or the ratings of the news media. If the news actually reported on ALL self defense shootings and defensive gun uses, they wouldn’t be able to report on much else.

About the Author

Jon Britton
Author, Advocate, Blogger & Zombie Aficionado. Air Force veteran and jack of all trades, with a wide range of experience with many different cultures around the world as well as working alongside both CEOs and average Joes. "Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion." A passion that has taken him in many directions from history to zombies to advocacy to News especially in this day and age of "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts." The Truth Is Out There!

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