Writes Jeff Jacoby in his newsletter Arguable on “Guns keep Americans safer”:
…Now comes a new survey of gun owners , one of the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted. Supervised by Georgetown University professor William English and published on the Social Science Research Network, it surveyed 16,708 gun owners, drawn from an overall population sample of 54,000. Among its findings: roughly 32 percent of American adults, 42 percent of them female, own guns. Handguns remain the most common type of firearm owned, with 171 million in private hands, but Americans also own 146 million rifles and 98 million shotguns.
…According to English, “approximately a third of gun owners have used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on more than one occasion, and guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year. A majority of gun owners, 56.2 percent, indicate that they carry a handgun for self-defense in at least some circumstances.”
Using a gun in this context generally does not mean firing a gun. More than 80 percent of the time, respondents said that when they “used” their weapon to respond to a threat, it was sufficient to simply show their gun, or merely mention that they had one. It is not surprising that most defensive gun uses never rise to the level of a news story. “Woman Scares Off Intruder, No Shots Fired,” isn’t a very gripping headline.
See also Andrew Bernstein’s article, Defense of Innocent Lives Requires Gun Ownership By Honest Persons.