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Adults living with gun owners are twice as likely to homicide

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It’s a belief that has contributed to a historic increase in U.S. gun sales and new gun owners during the COVID-19 pandemic: having a handgun at home for your personal protection will make you safer.

Groundbreaking new research conducted over a 12-year period in California shows the opposite to be true.

Between October 2004 and the end of 2016, adults in the state who did not own a gun but took up residence with someone who did were significantly more likely to die a violent death than people living in households without a handgun, researchers at Stanford University have found. .

According to the researchers, those who lived with a handgun owner were almost twice as likely to die by homicide as their unarmed neighbors. Specifically, adults who lived with a handgun owner were almost three times more likely to be killed with a gun than Californians in households where no handgun was present.

Additionally, people who lived with a gun owner and were killed in their homes were particularly likely to die at the hands of a spouse or other intimate partner. Among the 866 homicide victims who died in their homes during the study period, cohabitants of handgun owners were seven times more likely than adults in gunless households to have been killed by someone who ostensibly loved.

Reported in public health statistics, the findings suggest that for every 100,000 unarmed adults whose cohabitant acquired a handgun, 4.03 more were killed by a firearm in the next five years than did would have been if their households had remained unarmed.

The study was published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The risk of living with a gun owner falls overwhelmingly on women, said study leader David M. Studdert, a Stanford professor of health law and policy. Nearly 85% of homicide victims living with handgun owners were female, he said.

Children also bear a disproportionate share of the risks of living in households with gun owners, but their deaths were not counted in this study, Studdert said.

The research comes amid a surge in gun sales, spurred by concerns over crime, racial discord and a pandemic that has killed nearly a million Americans and laid bare serious inequalities in health care.

In a 2015 survey, researchers at Harvard University found that the stock of handguns in American homes nearly doubled, from 65 million in the mid-1990s to 113 million in 2015. Among owners handguns, 2 in 3 cited self-defense as the primary motivation for their decision to keep a gun.

A study published in February found that between January 1, 2019 and the end of April 2021 – a period marked by pandemic shutdowns and nationwide protests sparked by the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers – approximately 7, 5 million new firearms were purchased. . This shopping spree created approximately 5.4 million new gun-owning households in the United States and exposed more than 11 million members of those households, including 5 million children, to the risks of living with a gun. fire.

Indeed, as historically low crime rates began to rise during the pandemic, Americans rushed to buy handguns in an effort to protect themselves and their families, Studdert said. Despite clear evidence that firearm suicide and accident rates are higher in households with guns, the narrative that guns protect households in other ways has gained traction in United States.

But that’s also wrong, he says.

“People living with gun owners showed no evidence of lower rates of fatal assaults by strangers,” Studdert said. “It suggests that there is no protective effect of a firearm against intruders. We just haven’t seen that.

Many adults know that having a handgun in the home increases the risk that a troubled teenager will use the gun to kill themselves, Studdert said. They realize that a curious child could reach for the weapon to play with, with disastrous results.

But many of those adults seem to believe the same gun will ward off thieves, rapists and other intruders and protect family members from harm, he added.

“You could say that’s a valid compromise, but we don’t see that protection,” he said. “We could not detect any protective benefit of any kind in this study.”

The authors of the new report point out that, like the smoke of a tobacco user, the risk of living with a gun extends beyond the person who voluntarily assumes the risk. To clarify this parallel, they called the increased risks of violent death for those who do not own guns the “indirect risks” of gun ownership.

David Hemenway, an injury prevention researcher at Harvard University, said the analogy is no accident.

As efforts to capture and limit the harms of tobacco intensified at the turn of the last century, it was the notion of “third-party effects” that moved the needle, Hemenway said.

Hemenway called the new study “truly important” and groundbreaking in its use of public records to track the whereabouts and well-being of very large populations over a long period of time. The Stanford team linked gun purchase records to public voting records, which include the residences of more than 17 million Californians. These, in turn, were checked against death certificates and medical examiner reports.

“It’s like something that’s hardly ever done in injury prevention: you have these millions of people and you follow them year after year after year,” Hemenway said. California, with its strict gun-buying laws and careful record-keeping of gun ownership, “is one of the few states” where a study like this could be done and have national implications, he said.

Much more will be learned from the data gathered for this study, he added.

“You look: Over the next few years there will be so many incredibly important additional studies coming out of California on the issues of guns and death,” he said. “Once there’s a good set of data, researchers are like moths to a flame.”

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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