Saturday, October 15, 2016

Americans Moving Toward Handguns

"Two widely cited examinations, published in 1992 and 1993 in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that people who kept guns in the home faced a 2.7-fold greater risk of homicide and a 4.8-fold greater risk of suicide.

"'On average, the gun imperils everyone in the home more than it protects them,' said Matthew Miller, a professor at Northeastern University and an author of the 2015 study. 'If you can get people to understand the risk that they are assuming and imposing on people in their home, you can actually save lives.'"--NYTimes article this morning (here).

An exhaustive new study on gun ownership reported by the Times this morning shows owners are moving away from long guns toward handguns. The study also emphasizes emphasizes earlier studiea that show gun owners kill far more innocent people (including themselves) than criminals wishing to do those owners harm. 

The new study, which will be published next year and polled 4,000 people, shows that in the past 25 or so years, ownership has more than doubled and that just three percent of Americans own more than half of the guns. More handguns are being bought these days than rifles and shotguns and family protection is the most often cited reason for gun purchases, especially among handguns.

The survey showed that women and African-Americans prefer  handguns to longer guns, though white men still prefer rifles and shotguns. 

Guns are being concentrated in the hands of vastly fewer people, mostly rural white men over the age of 30. "While the percentage of households with guns has declined to 22 percent from 25 percent, the net numbers of guns and gun owners have gone up. In 1994, about 44 million Americans owned 192 million guns. Today, about 55 million Americans own 265 million guns."


  1. After a mass murder shooting anti-gun organizations like the Brady campaign inevitably call for gun restrictions; these organizations also cite gun violence data other than crime data to include suicides and injuries. This is misleading. Although accidents and suicide are public health concerns, it is disingenuous to include them with homicide in response to a horrific crime. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates have crept up slightly 2000-2009, but are still lower than the rate per 100,000 from 1950-1990. It’s not accurate to say guns contribute to suicide causal factors since the rate is lower now. And ultimately, legislation aimed to prevent crime by banning weapons and limiting magazine capacity has no reasonable connection to either suicide or accidents. We ought to compare apples to apples: suicide with suicide prevention, accidents with safety programs, and homicide with policy that would realistically reduce homicide.

  2. Anon: I am going to allow your post to remain, though I have little use for people who don't let us know who is talking. You make an interesting--though totally invalid--point. Suicide is brought into the argument because it points up the danger of having guns in the home. I can personally attest to the gun's ease of use in suicide, as a former alcoholic who considered suicide several times. There was no gun, so I remain here--as a sober person--to make the argument. Whether suicide is down from the 1950s-1960s is of no consequence. It remains high, as do accidental gun deaths. Controlling the number of guns in the public arena could dramatically reduce that. Gun advocates constantly and incorrectly say that gun opponents want to take guns away from owners, want to leave helpless mothers shivering in the closet when intruders enter their homes (on a daily basis?). That is not true. We want gun laws that keep the guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The actions of the NRA and people who support it tell us an opposite story: it wants guns of any description in the hands of everybody: war mental health cases, terrorists, spouse and child abusers, pedophiles, teen-aged thugs, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, decrepit elderly, children, bank robbers, people with a long history of violent mental illness. Everybody. And that is not working.