Nancy Grossman: Guns in home do not mean safety increased

Last modified: Friday, April 04, 2014
To the editor:

Dr. Jay Fleitman wrote in a recent column about his choice to purchase a firearm to “protect” his family in the event of a home invasion.

Unfortunately, many of us, even doctor-scientists such as Dr. Fleitman, make safety-related choices based on emotion, while failing to actually examine the scientific evidence. As in all things, simply feeling safer does not necessarily mean we are safer.

During an assault, those who possess a firearm at the time of the assault are four-and-a-half times more likely to be shot in the assault than an unarmed person. In other words, attempting to “protect” one’s family by confronting that burglar has a higher likelihood of ending badly than, say, calling 911 and staying out of the way.

Like childhood abduction, which is carried out overwhelmingly by someone who is known to the victim, burglaries that involve violence are most often committed by family members or acquaintances of the victim, rather than a stranger.

Although feared, burglary-related homicides by strangers are actually quite rare.

In addition, simply having a gun in the home is associated with a greatly increased risk of firearm-related homicide, suicide and accidental shootings in the home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that doctors urge parents to remove all guns from their homes and cite this statistic, “guns kept in the home are 43 times more likely to be used to kill someone known to the family than to be used to kill in self-defense.” Forty-three times more likely.

There are valid reasons to keep a firearm — hunting or target-shooting, for instance — but all indications point to family members being less rather than more safe when guns are kept in the home.

Nancy Grossman