One of the biggest arguments made by pro-gun US citizens is that owning a gun allows them to protect themselves, their property, and most importantly, their family. It makes sense; In the US, there are 120 guns for every 100 people, which means any potential attacker is likely to be armed.
However, research consistently shows that carrying a gun does not increase safety, it decreases it. Much like carrying a knife increases your chances of being stabbed in the UK, carrying a gun increases your chances of being shot and it can also put people you live with at risk.
Californians who lawfully have a handgun in their home are twice as likely to be killed by homicide as those who don’t, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. They are also significantly more likely to be shot by a spouse or partner.
“Protecting oneself and loved ones is often the reason for purchasing a handgun, but adults (especially women) living with a handgun owner were at higher risk of dying from homicide than adults living in households without a handgun lived,” the authors write.
Building on previous research suggesting that owning a gun at home increases the likelihood of suicide and homicide, the Stanford University researchers wanted to dig deeper into the relationship. Using a large cohort of over 17,500,000 California adults ages 21 and older, researchers identified who owned handguns, who lived with handgun owners, and who were victims of homicide.
During the 12-year study period, 737,012 people died from the total cohort and 2,293 of them were homicide victims. Of these, twice as many people had firearms in their homes as those who didn’t, suggesting twice the risk of homicide if you live with handguns. People who lived with a handgun owner were seven times more likely to die from gunshots from a partner or spouse, and the vast majority — about 85 percent — were women. Children also have an increased risk of death in gun-owning households, but this was not measured in this study.
Taken together, the results suggest a damning conclusion for the decision to purchase a handgun for the safety of loved ones. The researchers note that they did not include illegal gun ownership in the study, which may have been responsible for some of the homicides in households considered gun-free, and this is something future studies should address.