One of the biggest arguments of pro-gun US residents is that having a gun allows them to protect themselves, their property and – most importantly – their families. It is logical; in the US there are 120 guns for every 100 people, meaning every potential aggressor is likely armed.
Yet research consistently shows that carrying a weapon does not increase safety, but actually decreases it. Just as carrying a knife in the UK increases your chances of getting stabbed, carrying a gun greatly increases your chances of getting shot, and it can also endanger people you live with.
According to new research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Californians who legally have a gun in their home have double the risk of death by homicide compared to those who don’t. They are also significantly more likely to be shot by a spouse or partner.
Protecting themselves and loved ones is often the reason for buying a gun, but adults (particularly women) living with a gun owner had a higher risk of dying from homicide than adults living in households without guns, writes the authors.
Building on previous research suggesting that gun ownership in the home increases the likelihood of both suicide and homicide, the Stanford University researchers wanted to delve deeper into the relationship. With a large cohort of more than 17.5 million adults 21 and older from California, the researchers identified who owned guns, who lived with gun owners, and who was murdered.
During the 12-year study period, 737,012 people of the total cohort died and 2,293 were murdered. Of those, twice as many people had firearms in their homes as those who didn’t, suggesting a double the risk of murder if you live with guns. People who lived with a gun owner were seven times more likely to die from a gunshot wound from a partner or spouse, and the vast majority — about 85 percent — were women. Children also have an increased risk of death in households with gun owners, but this was not measured in this study.
Together, the results suggest a damning conclusion to the decision to buy a gun for the safety of loved ones. The researchers note that they did not include illegal possession of weapons in the study, which may have been responsible for some of the homicides in homes considered gun-free, and this is something future studies should address.