The Rational and Irrational of Protection and Guns

Few issues expose the ineffectiveness of evidence and research on people’s beliefs and fears than the gun debate.

Social media prove to be terrible avenues for such exchanges as well, but one recurring argument about gun control is that some gun advocates who fear gun control are driven by a mostly rational urge to protect themselves, their families, and their possessions.

As a subset of the larger debate about the possibility of using gun control to curb mass and school shootings as well as all types of gun violence—all of which are far more common in the U.S. than other democracies across Europe and Scandinavia—arguments for in-home gun ownership for protection often fail the evidence test. In fact, those who cling to guns and oppose gun control because of concerns about protection tend to offer “what if” arguments and depend on anecdote.

This exposes a fundamental lack of awareness among many, if not most, people that significant bodies of research on guns, gun control, and gun violence have been conducted, and while we do not know everything definitively, we know quite a lot—and we do not have to speculate, and we do not need to depend on fear or irrational scenarios.

Evidence, in fact, suggests that even if gun ownership can contribute to protection and self-defense, the negative consequences of guns in the home far outweigh that possibility—suicides, accidental shootings, and domestic violence.

Research also shows that other strategies often prove better for protection and safety than returning or using gun fire.

But, since social media are a hot mess for this reason, no one should accept the claims above simply because I make them here in this post. Therefore, here is what I can find accessible online:

Statistics on the Dangers of Gun Use for Self-Defense (Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence)

Though guns may be successfully used in self-defense even when they are not fired, the evidence shows that their presence in the home makes a person more vulnerable, not less.  Instead of keeping owners safer from harm, objective studies confirm that firearms in the home place owners and their families at greater risk.  Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that living in a home where guns are kept increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by between 40 and 170%.2  Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology similarly found that “persons with guns in the home were at greater risk of dying from a homicide in the home than those without guns in the home.”  This study determined that the presence of guns in the home increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by 90%.3

Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study | American Journal of Epidemiology

Abstract

Data from a US mortality follow-back survey were analyzed to determine whether having a firearm in the home increases the risk of a violent death in the home and whether risk varies by storage practice, type of gun, or number of guns in the home. Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4). They were also at greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide, but risk varied by age and whether the person was living with others at the time of death. The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method (adjusted odds ratio = 31.1, 95% confidence interval: 19.5, 49.6). Results show that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home

Abstract
OBJECTIVE:
Determine the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide.

METHODS:
We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas.

RESULTS:
During the study interval (12 months in Memphis, 18 months in Seattle, and Galveston) 626 shootings occurred in or around a residence. This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

CONCLUSIONS:
Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

Gun owners say they buy for protection, but harm is more likely

Meanwhile, there are at least four distinct risks from having a gun in the home:

  • Legal liability, as illustrated by the Springport case. Law enforcement officials warn using a gun in self defense can put a gun owner in legal jeopardy if they injure or kill someone and a prosecutor decides the shooting doesn’t fit Michigan’s fairly narrow allowable uses of deadly force.
  • Risk of an accidental shooting. In 2016, Michigan had at least 73 accidental shootings that resulted in death or injury, including 15 events that involved children under age 12, according to Gun Violence Archive, a website that tracks self-defense shootings from a variety of sources.
  • Risk of a gun being used against a family member, friend or acquaintance during an argument. Four out of five gun homicide victims in Michigan are killed by someone they know, based on an MLive analysis of cases where the relationship between shooter and victim was reported.
  • Increased risk of suicide, since guns provide a particularly convenient and lethal means of self-harm. A majority of Michigan gun deaths are suicides, not homicides, and counties with high rates of gun suicides also have higher rates of suicides overall.

Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths

Abstract
BACKGROUND:
Between 1979 and 1997, almost 30,000 Americans died from unintentional firearm injuries, half of whom were under 25 years of age and 4,600 of whom were less than 15 years old.

PURPOSE:
To explore the association between state firearm levels and rates of unintentional firearm deaths by age group, accounting for several potential confounders.

METHODS:
The study used a proxy for firearm availability and pooled cross-sectional time-series data on unintentional firearm deaths for the 50 United States from 1979 to 1997. Negative binomial models were used to estimate the association between firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths.

RESULTS:
A statistically significant and robust association exists between gun availability and unintentional firearm deaths for the US as a whole and within each age group. Multivariate analysis found that, compared to states with the lowest gun levels, states with the highest gun levels had, on average, 9 times the rate of unintentional firearm deaths. These results hold among men and women, for Whites and African Americans.

CONCLUSION:
Of the almost 30,000 people who died in unintentional firearm deaths over the 19-year study period, a disproportionately high number died in states where guns are more prevalent. The results suggest that the increased risk of unintentional violent death among all age groups is not entirely explained by a state’s level of poverty, urbanization, or regional location.

Myth vs. Fact: Debunking the Gun Lobby’s Favorite Talking Points – Center for American Progress

Myth: Owning a gun makes you safer

Fact: Owning a gun puts you at heightened risk for gun violence

The NRA often argues that the United States is a dangerous place and that owning and carrying a gun is the only way to protect both oneself and one’s family. While gun ownership is certainly one option for home defense, a growing body of data and research shows that owning a gun also increases the risk of a gun-related tragedy occurring in the home.

  • Numerous studies have found that gun ownership increases the risk of both gun-related homicides and suicides.1
  • Guns in the home are particularly dangerous for victims of domestic violence. The presence of a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence increases the risk that a woman will be killed by 500 percent.2
  • Guns intended for self-defense are commonly involved in fatal accidents. Studies have shown that across states, higher levels of gun ownership are linked to higher rates of unintentional firearm deaths.3

Guns are used far more often in criminal homicides than in justifiable acts of self-defense. In 2014, for every self-defense gun homicide in the United States, guns were used in 34 criminal homicides.4

Seeking safety is a rational urge for anyone, but associating guns and gun ownership with greater safety is irrational, guaranteeing more violence and death in fact.

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One thought on “The Rational and Irrational of Protection and Guns

  1. Pingback: The Best Way to Prepare for School Shootings is to Reduce the Chances They’ll Happen at All | gadflyonthewallblog

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