FABLE I: A gun in the home makes the home less safe.
Firearms are used three to five times more often to stop crimes than to commit them,1 and accidents with firearms are at an all-time recorded low.2 In spite of this, anti-firearm activists insist that the very act of keeping a firearm in the home puts family members at risk, often claiming that a gun in the home is "43 times" more likely to be used to kill a family member than an intruder, based upon a study by anti-gun researchers of firearm-related deaths in homes in King County (Seattle), Washington.3 Although Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay originally warned that their study was of a single non-representative county and noted that they failed to consider protective uses of firearms that did not result in criminals being killed, anti-gun groups and activists use the "43 times" claim without explaining the limitations of the study or how the ratio was derived.
To produce the misleading ratio from the study, the only defensive or protective uses of firearms that were counted were those in which criminals were killed by would-be crime victims. This is the most serious of the study's flaws, since fatal shootings of criminals occur in only a fraction of 1% of protective firearm uses nationwide.4 Survey research by award-winning Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, has shown that firearms are used for protection as many as 2.5 million times annually.5
It should come as no surprise that Kleck's findings are reflexively dismissed by "gun control" groups, but a leading anti-gun criminologist was honest enough to acknowledge their validity. "I am as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country," wrote the late Marvin E. Wolfgang. "I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police. . . . What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator. . . . I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology."6
While the "43 times" claim is commonly used to suggest that murders and accidents are likely to occur with guns kept at home, suicides accounted for 37 of every 43 firearm-related deaths in the King County study. Nationwide, 58% of firearm-related deaths are suicides,7 a problem which is not solved by gun laws aimed at denying firearms to criminals. "Gun control" advocates would have the public believe that armed citizens often accidentally kill family members, mistaking them for criminals. But such incidents constitute less than 2% of fatal firearms accidents, or about one for every 90,000 defensive gun uses.8
In spite of the demonstrated flaws in his research, Kellermann continued to promote the idea that a gun is inherently dangerous to own. In 1993, he and a number of colleagues presented a study that claimed to show that a home with a gun was much more likely to experience a homicide.9
This study, too, was seriously flawed. Kellermann studied only homes where homicides had taken place--ignoring the millions of homes with firearms where no harm is done--and used a control group unrepresentative of American households. By looking only at homes where homicides had occurred and failing to control for more pertinent variables, such as prior criminal record or histories of violence, Kellermann et al. skewed the results of this study. After reviewing the study, Prof. Kleck noted that Kellermann's methodology is analogous to proving that since diabetics are much more likely to possess insulin than non-diabetics, possession of insulin is a risk factor for diabetes. Even Dr. Kellermann admitted, "It is possible that reverse causation accounted for some of the association we observed between gun ownership and homicide." Northwestern University Law Professor Daniel D. Polsby went further, writing, "Indeed the point is stronger than that: 'reverse causation' may account for most of the association between gun ownership and homicide. Kellermann's data simply do not allow one to draw any conclusion."10
FABLE I: A gun in the home makes the home less safe.
1. Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, p. 160; FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annual reports.
2. National Center for Health Statistics and National Safety Council.
3. Arthur L. Kellermann and Donald T. Reay, "Protection or Peril?: An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home," New England Journal of Medicine, 1986, pp. 1557-1560.
4. Kleck, pp. 163-164.
5. Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun," The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1995, p. 164.
6. Marvin E. Wolfgang, "Tribute to a View I Have Opposed," The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1995, pp. 188-192.
7. National Center for Health Statistics, 1999, the most recent year for which data have been published.
8. Gary Kleck, "Keeping, Carrying, and Shooting Guns for Self-Protection," Essays on Firearms and Violence, by Don B. Kates, Jr. and Gary Kleck, San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, 1995, p. 208.
9. Kellermann, et al., "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home," New England Journal of Medicine, 1993, p. 467.
10. Daniel D. Polsby, "The False Promise of Gun Control," The Atlantic Monthly, March 1994
REMEMBER: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!