One of the largest arguments by pro-gun US residents is that having a weapon allows them to protect themselves, their property, and – most importantly – their family. It makes sense; in the USA there are 120 guns for every 100 people, meaning any would-be aggressor is likely to be armed.
Yet, research is consistently showing that safety is not increased by carrying a gun, but decreased. Much like carrying a knife in the UK increases your chance of being stabbed, carrying a gun massively increases your chance of being shot, and it may place people you live with in danger too.
According to new research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Californians that lawfully have a handgun in their home have double the risk of death by homicide compared to those that don’t. They are also significantly more likely to be shot by a spouse or partner.
“Protecting oneself and loved ones is often the reason for buying a handgun, but adults (particularly women) living with a handgun owner had a higher risk for dying by homicide than adults living in households without handguns,” write the authors.
Building on previous research suggesting gun ownership in the home increases the chance of both suicide and becoming a victim of homicide, the researchers from Stanford University wanted to delve deeper into the relationship. Taking a large cohort of over 17,500,000 adults aged 21 and over from California, the researchers identified who owned handguns, who lived with handgun owners, and who became victims of homicide.
Over the 12-year study period, 737,012 people out of the total cohort died and 2,293 of those were victims of homicide. Of those, there were twice the number of people had firearms in their home compared to those that didn’t, suggesting a doubled risk of homicide if you live with handguns. People living with a handgun owner were seven times more likely to die by gunshot from a partner or spouse, and the vast majority – around 85 percent – were women. Children also have an increased risk of death in gun-owning households, but this was not measured in this study.
Together, the results suggest a damning conclusion for the decision to buy a handgun for the safety of loved ones. The researchers note that they did not include illegal ownership of guns in the study, which may have accounted for some of the homicides in homes considered gun-free, and this is something future studies should address.