There are various versions of this one (e.g., “I need to be able to protect my family,” “It’s dangerous to be a single woman without a gun”) but they all boil down to this:
Having a gun makes you safer.
Ultimately, though, it’s the easiest claim to take down because, quite simply, having a gun doesn’t make you any safer. In fact, in most ways, having a gun makes you less safe.
And here’s how we know.
As it turns out, there’s a big difference between feeling safe and being safe. For instance, most people feel safer in a car than in a plane but, as I’m sure you all know, you’re way more likely to get hurt riding around in a car than flying in plane.
The same thing is true with owning and carrying around a gun. You may feel safer, but you are actually way more likely to get hurt or killed with it than without it (and so is anyone who spends time with you).
Here are three reasons why:
- Having a gun makes you (and those, particularly children, around you) more likely to die as the result of a gun-related accident. States with more guns see more accidental gun deaths. This is particularly true when it comes to the safety of children, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “the absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.”
- You’re also more likely to kill yourself intentionally if you have a gun. This 2014 study meta-analysis (which means it’s a study that looks at many already published studies) found that access to guns was a substantial risk-factor for suicide. Their conclusion was that “access to firearms is associated with risk for completed suicide.”
- In the very unlikely circumstance (less than 1%) that you find yourself in a situation where you are the victim of an attack and need to defend yourself, a gun offers no safety advantage. According to a 2014 study, your chances of being injured in that attack are approximately 11% whether you have a gun or not. That same study points to running away, hiding, or calling the police as the options least likely to result in injury.
This is the point when most gun-enthusiasts point to the need for gun training and safety measures.
Fine, lets talk about training and safety measures.
First, there’s almost no research on the topic, probably because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has successfully prevented the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from doing research related to guns.
The data we have provides some evidence to suggest that safety training will lead to a decrease in accidents, but that is it. No evidence to support the idea training leads to a decrease in suicide (we wouldn’t expect it to) or an increased likelihood of defending oneself with a gun.
The really tragic part of this story, though, is the research we have says we could cut down on accidental gun death by simply implementing mandatory training requirements across the nation. A few states, less than ten, have those requirements already. Not surprisingly, though, the NRA is opposed to such mandates.
By Ryan C. Martin