A new meta-analysis of gun research””the first systematic review of its kind””from the University of California, San Francisco, published in Annals of Internal Medicine today, has seemingly put an end to the debate over safety, at least in terms of suicide and homicide. Pooling results from 15 investigations, researchers found that a person with access to a gun is unequivocally less safe in terms of intentional death. Those with the ability to get to a gun are three times as likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to be the victim of a homicide than people without access.
Although 31,000 people die from gun-inflicted wounds annually and gun deaths make up over half of all suicide deaths and over two-thirds of all homicides – there is still a very loud chorus of those who insist having a gun in the home makes them safer. It may make them feel safer, but the results of this meta-analysis prove that they definitely aren’t.
You’ll always hear the arguments – if someone wants to kill someone they can use a different weapon and if someone is intent on killing themselves there are many other avenues. This argument doesn’t change the fact that guns remain the most popular and effective way of ending lives. Also, this: “In what may be another blow to this logic, the UCSF study notes that most of the research controlled for mental illness and found that the increased risk of suicide and homicide remained, supporting the well-documented theory of impulsivity as the driving force in these deaths, not mental illness.”
It is particularly disturbing to see how gun violence affects men and women differently: “Men were nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than when firearms were not accessible, while women were almost three times more likely to be victims of homicide.” Men make up the majority of homicide deaths, but women with firearm access are more than twice as likely to be the victim of homicides – due to domestic violence. But I guess there will always be the anecdote of the woman who effectively staved off an attacker with a gun. Or the the impenetrable gun safe that every responsible owner believes they own.
What do we do with results of a study like this? If you’re a gun owner, I’m going to guess that you are going to think of all the reasons to believe that although a sweeping meta-analysis proves you are not safer with guns in the home – your family is an exception. While I really, really hope you’re right – I’m going to remained “safely” unarmed.
(photo: Getty Images)