For well over a year, The Daily Signal has published a monthly series highlighting lawful gun owners who used their firearms to protect their liberties, lives or livelihoods.

Although these articles recount just a dozen or so stories each month, the incidents are selected from hundreds of other, similar examples.

Those defensive gun uses are worth highlighting, too. That’s why The Heritage Foundation is introducing its Defensive Gun Use Database, an interactive map featuring all of the news accounts from police reports that we couldn’t fit into installments of the monthly series.

What’s the Defensive Gun Use Database?

The database features an interactive map that allows users to locate instances of defensive gun use in their own states and cities.

Clicking on a specific dot on the map provides the user with an instant breakdown of important information about the incident of defensive gun use that the dot represents.

For example, users can see the date and location of the defensive gun use, what type of firearm was involved and the context in which the gun was used — including to defend against a home invasion, armed robbery or domestic violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all major studies on defensive gun use have found that Americans use their firearms defensively between 500,000 and 3 million times each year. Researchers have good reason to believe, however, that most defensive gun uses aren’t reported to law enforcement, much less picked up by local or national media outlets.

For this reason, the Defensive Gun Use Database isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all such incidents occurring in the United States. Such a database would be nearly impossible to compile.

Instead, this database features only cases that could be discovered and verified through public sources, and where the evidence indicates no wrongdoing on the part of the gun owner.

Why is this database important?

Despite the limitations on data, the Defensive Gun Use Database is an incredibly important tool, because these confirmed cases help prove that the “good guy with a gun” is not a myth. Rather, lawful gun owners clearly play an integral role in promoting public safety and protecting individual rights.

As the database proves, every single day lawful gun owners use their firearms to defend themselves and others against criminals when the government simply could not get there in time.

These gun owners are not vigilantes who went looking for trouble. They did not intentionally place themselves in dangerous situations. Many of them even fail to fit the caricature of “typical gun owner.”

They are young mothers defending their children from home invaders.

They are disabled individuals whose firepower enabled them to stand toe to toe with criminals who thought they had the advantage.

They are abused women who protected themselves from violent ex-lovers who came to exact revenge.

They are elderly men outnumbered by would-be thieves who believed they had picked an easy target.

They’re our mothers, daughters, brothers and sons. They’re our neighbors, friends and co-workers. They’re working jobs and living lives in our neighborhoods.

In short, the Defensive Gun Use Database and map provide powerful answers to the common question: “Why would any rational, law-abiding American ever need to own a gun or carry it in public?”

What can we expect in the future?

First, The Daily Signal will continue to publish the monthly series of articles on defensive gun uses. The database will not replace the series, but instead it will provide an opportunity for readers to dive deeper into stories we don’t highlight.

Second, the database will keep growing as we update it to include new or newly verified instances of defensive gun use. We also hope to expand the database to include defensive gun uses that occurred in years predating our series.

Finally, our goal is to create a mechanism for readers to send us reports about instances we may have missed or that occurred to them and can be verified independently.

The public rollout of Heritage’s Defensive Gun Use Database is just the beginning.

Amy Swearer is a legal fellow in the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal.

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