We are writing in response to the Guns & Women article in the February 4 issue of the Reader. It was distressing and surprising that the article makes little reference to the fact that nearly half (48 percent) of all gun deaths are suicides and that another 18 percent of gun deaths are friends shooting friends or family members shooting family members. This means nearly 70 percent of all gun deaths are not people killing criminals trying to break into homes, but rather accidental deaths, suicides, and fights among friends and families where someone gets shot and killed. The “inconvenient fact” is you are more likely to kill yourself, your child or your husband than you are to kill a criminal trying to break into your home and attack you. Of course no one thinks he/she will shoot a friend or family member as an accident or during an argument or they wouldn’t buy the gun, but the facts speak plainly; people do end up killing friends and family members whether it be an accident or during a fight. Or an accident may happen when a child goes looking for Christmas presents and happens upon mom or dad’s gun that was hidden on the top shelf of the bedroom closet “well out of reach.”
It was appalling the article wrote off children killed by firearms stating mayhem resulting from guns in the home is a myth. The article cites the fact accidental shooting deaths of children have decreased in recent years, which may be true, but says nothing of the children who are accidentally shot and live. A very plausible and likely explanation for this decrease in children gun deaths comes from expanded 911 services and other ambulatory care. Just as many children are being shot, just not as many are dying. Is that an improvement?
The article presents the image that having a gun makes a person and his or her family safe through the presentation of carefully chosen anecdotes and asserts more children are killed by bathtub falls and cars than guns. This is true, but bathtubs and cars have other purposes besides taking a human life, which is the main purpose of a gun in the house for self-protection.
The members of Loyola University’s
Seminar on Social Psychological
Applications to Criminal Justice
Bryan Miller replies:
This quasi-anonymous letter is typical of the antigun crowd: long on unproven emotional assertions, short and selective on facts, and devoid of reasoning. As is usual with such diatribes, the authors seek to wave the bloody shirt of child victims, but note that “more children are killed by bathtub falls and cars than guns.”
They open their fusillade with the sort of unsupported figures that people with their point of view are fond of throwing around. The problem with the statistics given is that (as was noted in the original article) a successful use of a firearm in self-defense rarely results even in the discharge of the gun, much less the shooting of a criminal. Do we judge the efficacy of the police force by the number of dead and wounded they rack up? If we do, then it would seem that the armed citizen is more effective than the police, since more felons are shot in the course of a year by private individuals than by police officers in the line of duty.
This letter is based upon the false premise that any person owning a firearm is just as likely as any other person owning a firearm to commit suicide or murder. If a social scientist tried a like assertion vis-a-vis automobiles, she would conclude that one driver was just as likely as any other driver to harm himself or others in an automobile accident. The automobile insurance industry exists because that is not true. Similarly, 99.5 percent plus of privately owned firearms are never misused. While antigun propagandists are fond of talking about the possibility of shooting a friend or family member, they are much less fond of noting that, in a vast majority of domestic shootings, the police have been called several times for domestic disturbances before the shooting takes place. In short, the problem is not guns but responsibility.