Ottawa Citizen

The myth of self-pro­tec­tion


Re: Good­bye be­comes a heart­break­ing rou­tine in Newtown, Dec. 20.

As history has shown, that aw­ful tragedy in an ele­men­tary school in Con­necti­cut that took the lives of 27 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 20 chil­dren, will re­new calls by many mem­bers of the U.S. gun cul­ture for all cit­i­zens to arm for self-pro­tec­tion. True to form, at the NRA press con­fer­ence on Dec. 21, its spokespers­on, Wayne LaPierre, called for such an ac­tion, in­clud­ing putting a police of­fi­cer in ev­ery school in Amer­ica.

Stud­ies tend to re­veal peo­ple who carry a weapon for self-pro­tec­tion are more likely to in­crease vi­o­lence than re­duce it; the weapon is also more likely to be used against the vic­tims than by them. An Amer­i­can study pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine found that guns kept in the home were 22 per cent more likely to kill a fam­ily mem­ber or an ac­quain­tance than an in­truder.

A 1988 study of gun fa­tal­i­ties in King County, Washington be­tween 1978 and 1983 found that, for ev­ery time a gun was used in a self-pro­tec­tion homi­cide, 37 lives were lost in gun sui­cides, 4.6 lives were lost in gun homi­cides, and 1.3 lives were lost via un­in­ten­tional gun deaths — 43 deaths for ev­ery self-de­fence homi­cide. A sec­ond study re­vealed that keeping a firearm in the home in­creased the risk of homi­cide al­most three­fold.

In an aver­age year, about 100,000 Amer­i­cans are killed or in­jured with guns.

Ac­cord­ing to the FBI’s 2008 data, 245 al­leged crim­i­nals were killed by civil­ians, far fewer than were killed by police. This squares with an FBI re­port that, in 1992, hand­guns were used only 262 times by law-abid­ing cit­i­zens to kill crim­i­nals jus­ti­fi­ably.

Arm­ing for self-pro­tec­tion?


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