The largest study of gun violence in the United States, released Thursday afternoon, confirms a point that should be obvious: widespread American gun ownership is fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.
The study, by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, has been peer-reviewed and is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health. Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010, the longest stretch of time ever studied in this fashion, and set about seeing whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murder using guns over time.
With all this preliminary work in hand, the authors ran a series of regressions to see what effect the overall national decline in firearm ownership from 1981 to 2010 had on gun homicides. The result was staggering: “for each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” Siegel et al. found, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent. A one standard deviation change in firearm ownership shifted gun murders by a staggering 12.9 percent.
To put this in perspective, take the state of Mississippi. “All other factors being equal,” the authors write, “our model would predict that if the FS/S in Mississippi were 57.7% (the average for all states) instead of 76.8% (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17% lower.” Since 475 people were murdered with a gun in Mississippi in 2010, that drop in gun ownership would translate to 80 lives saved in that year alone.
This of course goes hand in hand with previous studies which proved that a gun in the home was FAR more likely to end the life of a family member rather than protect life or property in the event of a home invasion.
I want to take a moment to clear something up about my own personal opinion on guns.
I actually DON'T think that nobody should have a gun. I live in Alaska where, for many people in rural areas especially, guns are a necessary part of life.
My complaint is that guns have been romanticized and mythologized to the point that everybody in the country feels they should own one or more and that by NOT doing so they are somehow not true Americans, or are spitting on the memory of our Founding Fathers.
Anybody who wants to subject themselves to a rigorous background check, take comprehensive guns safety courses, and limit their number of weapons to a reasonable amount, has my blessing. However since we know that the vast majority of gun owners have not met the above criteria, I will continue to express my concern, and fear, that our love affair with guns will continue to unnecessarily cost American lives, and attack the NRA for selling our fellow citizens a potentially fatal bill of goods.