To Own or Not To Own a Firearm, That Is the Question

The pandemic saw an increase in weapons purchases, particularly gun sales. The urge to purchase a weapon during a national emergency is understandable, but it is necessary to question the logic or rationale behind the decision.  

For many people, the assumption is that a national crisis will increase violent crimes; therefore, owning a firearm will make it easier to protect your home and deter crime, right? The answer is not so cut and dry.  

People on both sides of the gun control debate often cite studies that imply either the successes of gun ownership or the perils. How can owning a gun makes you both safer and put you in more danger? To get to the bottom of the debate, it is necessary to examine the studies used to support each argument and take a commonsense approach to gun ownership.

Flawed Studies Populate Misconceptions

Owning a gun for home defense is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you purchase a firearm because you panic about violent break-ins or attacks, you might be worrying about nothing. Violent home invasions are exceedingly rare, with the number dropping drastically over the past 20 years.  

Even if you do experience a violent break-in, owning a firearm does not eliminate the risk of personal injury, and in most cases, it leads to a more violent interaction. According to an analysis of several national studies, researchers David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and Sara Solnick, an economist at the University of Vermont, people who threaten an intruder or attacker with a gun were more likely to become victims of assaults resulting in injury than if they just ran away or called the police. 

Some readers might find it shocking that owning a firearm could actually encourage an attack because they have likely heard the statistic about guns used for self-defense 2.5 million times per year or the saying that “good guys with guns” save lives. Unfortunately, while popular, the statistic and phrase are based on a flawed ‘95 study by criminologists Marc Gertz and Gary Kleck.  

Kleck and Gertz extrapolated the 2.5 million number from a survey of 5,000 Americans. Most researchers argue the study was too ambiguous and that the authors gravely overestimated the number of times a firearm is used in home defense. Recent research suggests that guns are rarely used for self-defense, speculating the number to be around 100,000 times annually, only 4% of the original touted estimate. 

Safety With or Without a Firearm

Are you safer with or without a firearm? The answer is dependent on your knowledge of weapons safety and your skill with a gun.  

Without the proper training, a gun owner is more likely to injure themselves or a family member. When you factor in the number of people purchasing firearms because they are worried about a national crisis leading to increased violent crime, the risk of injury goes up. Paranoia and guns do not mix. 

However, if you are a responsible gun owner, there might be a benefit to having a gun in your home. Responsible ownership means you have adequate firearms training, understand safe handling, and have appropriate locks, safes, or other storage solutions.  

How do you feel about gun ownership? Does a firearm make you safer, or does it increase your risks? Comment below.