Risks of Having a Gun in the Home

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).

 

SOLUTION:  Without stronger, sensible gun laws, thousands upon thousands of people will continue to die and be injured needlessly each year.  The Brady Campaign fights for sensible gun laws to protect you, your family, and your community.

 

Sources

Baxley, Fances, MD, and Matthew Miller, MD, ScD. “Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms.” Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 160 (2006): 542-47.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, accessed 10-01-2009


Cook, Philip J, and Susan B. Sorenson. “’We’ve Got a Gun?’: Comparing Reports of Adolescents and Their Parents About Household Firearms.” Journal of Community Psychology 36 (2008): 1-19


Harvard School of Public Health: Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Homicide – Suicide – Accidents – Children and Women. Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-de...


Hemenway, David, et al, “Unintentional Firearm Deaths: A Comparison of Other-Inflicted and Self-Inflicted Shootings,” Accident Analysis and Prevention 42(2010): 1184-1188


Johnson, Renee M., MPH, Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, and Carol W. Runyan, PhD. “Firearm Ownership and Storage Practices, U.S. Households, 1992-2002.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27 (2004): 173-82

 

Johnson, R.M., et al. “Storage of Household Firearms: An Examination of the Attitudes and Beliefs of Married Women with Children.” Health Education Research Advance Access (2007): 1-11


Kellermann, Arthur L. MD., MPH, et al. “Gun Ownership As a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home.” New England Journal of Medicine 329 (1993) 1084-1119


Kellermann, Arthur L.MD, MPH, et al. “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home.” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care 45 (1998): 263-67


Kellermann, Arthur L.MD, MPH, et al. “Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership.New England Journal of Medicine 327 (1992): 467-72.


Miller, M, et al, “Recent Psychopathology, Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempts in Households With and Without Firearms: Findings from the National Comorbidity Study Replication,” Injury Prevention 15(2009): 183-187


Miller, Matthew, David Hemenway, and Deborah Azrael. “State-Level Homicide Victimization Rates in the US in Relation to Survey Measures of Household Firearm Ownership, 2001-2003.” Social Science and Medicine 64 (2007) 656-64.


Miller, Matthew, Deborah Azrael, and David Hemenway. “Household Firearm Ownership and Suicide Rates in the United States.” Epidemiology 13 (2002) 517-524. Originally accessed through Harvard School of Public Health: Means Matters. Source of Firearms in Youth Suicides. Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/youth-access/index.html.|


Schuster, Mark A., Franke, Todd M., Bastian, Amy M., Sor, Sinaroth, Halfon, Neal.  "Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes With Children," American Journal of Public Health 90(4) (April 2000):588-594


Sorenson, Susan B., Cook, Philip J., "'We've Got a Gun?': Comparing Reports of Adolescents and Their Parents About Household Firearms," Journal of Community Psychology 36 (1) (2008):1-19


The National Violent Injury Statistics System. Youth Suicide: Findings from a pilot for the National Violent Death Reporting System. Boston: Harvard Injury Control Research Center: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.sprc.org/library/YouthSuicideFactSheet.pdf. Originally accessed through Harvard School of Public Health: Means Matters. Source of Firearms in Youth Suicides. Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/youth-access/index....


Wiebe, Douglas J. PhD. “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated With Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study.” Annals of Emergency Medicine 41 (2003): 771-82.