A friend of mine was terrorized by a stalker for years while she lived alone. She feared for her life, and when laws and restraining orders failed to make her feel safe, a gun did. She never had to use it, but knowing it was there gave her peace of mind.
Even though I personally hate guns, I admit that if I were faced with a similar situation, I probably would have done the same as my friend. So, I get it. People have a right to feel safe in their home.
However, it’s also important to know the risks. Statistics tell us that having a gun in your home doesn’t generally make you safer. In reality, the presence of a gun puts you, those who live in your home, and those who visit your home at greater risk — and not by a small margin. It is far more likely for someone in the home to be harmed or killed by the weapon you intended to protect you than to encounter a situation where you would actually use it for protection.
67% of Americans cite “protection” as the primary reason they own a gun, and yet, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, a gun in the home leads to a 40 to 170% increased risk of homicide, and a 90 to 460% increased risk of suicide. For adults living in homes with guns, the risk of death by accidental shooting is 3.7 times higher than for those living in homes without guns.
In one study that collected data from all fatal and non-fatal shootings across three cities, for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.
Take a look at those numbers again. For every ONE time a gun was used for protection, there were 22 incidents unrelated to protection.
Gun culture in the U.S. is such that we no longer respect the deadliness of these weapons. The U.S. has more guns than people, and on top of that, we’re careless and sloppy with them.
About 40% of Americans either own a gun themselves or live in a household with guns, and 38% of that group says a gun is both loaded and easily accessible to them at all times when they’re home.
Of the one in three U.S. homes with kids under 18 that has a gun in it, an unbelievable 43% of these admit their firearm is unlocked and loaded. 43%, unlocked, loaded, with kids in the house.
America, this is not okay. It’s not okay that preventable shootings happen every single day because of legally owned guns that are not properly stored.
It’s not okay that Tim and Tiffany Scott lost their 3-year-old son Truman in 2012 after Tim — an active duty police officer at the time — left a loaded gun on a nightstand for his wife to take with her to purchase cell phones from someone she’d connected with online. Truman sneaked in and grabbed the gun, took it on the porch, and accidentally shot himself with it. The entire incident from the placing of the gun on the nightstand to their child being dead took place in mere minutes.
It’s not okay that 6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly of a suburb of Atlanta was killed just this April because her 4-year-old brother discovered his mother’s loaded gun in the console and shot his sister with it.
It’s not okay that a Skyway, Washington woman who was eight months pregnant was shot in the face by her 4-year-old son after he found a loaded gun under her bed. Her boyfriend had borrowed it from his brother for protection.
It’s not okay that an Arizona man accidentally shot and killed his 6-year-old daughter while cleaning his shotgun.
It’s not okay that a father recently shot and killed his 23-year-old daughter Nadeja as she tried to gain entry into his home because he mistook her for an intruder.
Again and again these preventable tragedies happen, and we say a quick prayer and shrug our shoulders as if this is all par for the course, these casualties just the price of freedom. We’re numb to it.
Some of you who have a gun in your home may be shaking your head and saying none of these things could ever happen to you. That you’re more careful, your kids know better. Except all these people most certainly thought the same thing, and now their loved ones are dead.
Having a gun in the home simply does not make you safer, folks. It just doesn’t.
If you really feel strongly you must have a gun in the home for your protection, it’s imperative you store it properly. It should be locked away and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately. You should take a gun safety course and keep your shooting skills up to date.
But if you really want to do the statistically safest thing for your family, the numbers say you’re better off not having a gun at all.