Why is having a gun in your home a really really bad idea?

On a business trip to the US, I was invited by one chap into his home, and at some point the topic of guns came up. Not being a US citizen, he was curious to solicit my views. He was clearly pro-gun and had some rather strong ideas, and so being a polite guest I opted not to argue, but to instead listen as he explained his thinking on the topic.

He lived in LA, and so he could simply point out that there were some (I’m substituting his turn of phrase for words that are printable) rather undesirable gun-wielding folks not too many blocks away, hence he felt that having a gun in the house was not simply an option or a choice, but instead was essential. It was kept beside his bed and so both he and his wife had rapid access if the need arose. His son, about 12, also knew it was there and had been drilled on all the safety aspects related it it. What I found most striking about this setup was that his primary motivation was pure raw fear of “them”, and I could not help but wonder if the reason “they” possessed weapons was because of people such as him.

Moving on to another scenario, this time a trip to Washington DC. After a day of meetings a few of us went walking in the Mall. It was dark and late, but we had no worries about it, and so off we went heading around the White House boundary and then off towards the Vietnam war memorial  (which in itself is a moving experience, but that is a story for another day). As we walked, one chap, a Brit who lived in California was talking about his anti-gun stance. He opens my eyes to a few things and explained that it is far more common for people to be shot by people they know than by a prowler or some random nut breaking into their house. His abstract illustration was of a couple who do truly love each other, but get into a very very heated argument, and then one in a blinding rage, pulls out the house gun, and as things escalate even further, one of them ends up dead.

Can it ever play out like that?

Sadly yes it does and it did last Friday.

Christy Sheats

Christy was a very stanch pro-gun advocate who posted this message on her Facebook page last March …

It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.

A few days ago (last Friday) a family argument rapidly escalated and she ended up shooting dead both of her daughters, Taylor Sheats, 22, and Madison Sheats, 17. When the police arrived, they found her waving the pistol, and after refusing to drop it they shot and fatally wounded her.

Here they are …

Madison (left) was pronounced dead at the scene, while Taylor (right) was airlifted in critical condition to the Texas Medical Center where she later died
Madison (left) was pronounced dead at the scene, while Taylor (right) was airlifted in critical condition to the Texas Medical Center where she later died
Christy (right with Madison left)
Christy (right with Madison left)

The Facts

This is just one tragic case, so what does a statistical analysis reveal about having a gun in your home, will you be safer or more at risk?

The following (which I cut and pasted from the Brady campaign website) spells it out for you …

PROBLEM:  Keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of injury and death.  Gun owners may overestimate the benefits of keeping a gun in the home and underestimate the risks. 

DID YOU KNOW?   Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths.

  • Gun death rates are 7 times higher in the states with the highest compared with the lowest household gun ownership. (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present (Wiebe, p. 780).
  • Household gun ownership levels vary greatly by state, from 60 percent in Wyoming to 9 percent in Hawaii (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001).

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

  • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
  • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of suicide.

  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, p. 467, p. Wiebe, p. 771).
  • The association between firearm ownership and increased risk of suicide cannot be explained by a higher risk of psychiatric disorders in homes with guns (Miller, p. 183).

DID YOU KNOW?  A gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.

Every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, it is used:

  • 11 times for completed and attempted suicides (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263).
  • 7 times in criminal assaults and homicides, and
  • 4 times in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.

DID YOU KNOW?  Many children and teens live in homes with firearms, including ones that are loaded and unlocked.

  • One third of all households with children younger than eighteen have a firearm (Johnson, 2004 p.179).
  • More than 40% of gun-owning households with children store their guns unlocked (Schuster, p. 590).
  • One fourth of homes with children and guns have a loaded firearm (Johnson, 2004 p.179).
  • Between 6% and 14% of firearm owning households with a child under 18 have an unlocked and loaded firearm (Johnson, 2004, p.175).
  • In almost half of unintentional shooting deaths (49 percent), the victim is shot by another person.  In virtually all of these cases, the shooter and victim knew each other (Hemenway, p. 1184).

DID YOU KNOW?  Parents may underestimate their children’s access to guns in the home.  Women may not know about guns in the home or be unable to assure safe storage, despite wanting it.

  • Among gun-owning parents who reported that their children had never handled their firearms at home, 22% of the children, questioned separately, said that they had (Baxley and Miller, p. 542).
  • For unmarried mothers, when an adolescent boy reports a handgun in the home, nearly three-fourths of the mothers say there is no handgun in the home (Sorenson, p. 15).
  • Of youths who committed suicide with firearms, 82% obtained the firearm from their home, usually a parent’s firearm (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
  • When storage status was noted, about two-thirds of the firearms had been stored unlocked (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
  • Among the remaining cases in which the firearms had been locked, the youth knew the combination or where the key was kept or broke into the cabinet (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
  • Among married women living in gun-owning households, 94 percent believed in safe gun-storage practices but 43% of those households stored their family’s gun unsafely (Johnson, 2007, pp. 5, 8).
  • Women are less likely than men to own the guns in their homes (Johnson, 2007 p. 4).
  • Women are less likely than men to report a gun’s presence in the home (Johnson, 2004 p. 180).

Do you have a Gun in your Home?

If so then you should seriously consider removing it, because the moment you do so you greatly reduce the degree of risk you currently face.

If you are still not sure about this, then think back to Christy, Taylor and Madison who all died tragically last Friday simply because somebody with access to a gun lost their rag for a few minutes (as we all do at one time or another).

In September 2015, Christy, posted a photo of her two daughters on Facebook with this message ..

‘Happy Daughter’s Day to my two amazing, sweet, kind, beautiful, intelligent girls. I love and treasure you both more than you could ever possibly know.’ 

Tributes poured in for Taylor on Facebook on Saturday. Her friend Joanna Higgins wrote on their high school alumni page:

‘I’m in utter shock. She was so talented and had a heart of gold. God rest her soul and those mourning her loss.’

Madison’s former teacher Whitney Mae Bruce wrote:

‘My heart is broken this morning to find that my sweet Madison Sheats lost her life. Always positive and smiling, Madison quickly became one of my favorite students four years ago while teaching for the first time in Katy. 

Christy did need protection, but not from some anonymous stranger, instead she needed protection from her family from herself.


2 thoughts on “Why is having a gun in your home a really really bad idea?”

  1. Did you know that where there is water there are more water deaths? Did you know that where there are trees there are more tree deaths? Did you know where there are cars there are more car deaths. Deep thoughts.


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