r/Health – Op-Ed: Thinking of buying a gun for self-defense? Don’t do it [from an ER doc]


How sad that he doesn’t seem to understand the statistics he quotes, and primarily relies on a straw man and anecdotal experience. His group of interest seems to be folks who purchase firearms for defensive use, but then he examines all kinds of other groups, confounding the question and his conclusions.

I work in a Level I trauma center; by quite a large ratio the vast majority of GSW’s are folks who are engaging in some sort of potentially illegal activity prior to engaging in the (usually) illegal activity of shooting each other. Scattered in there are a fair number of miscreants shot by law-abiding citizens, way more than the zero he has treated. Maybe he hasn’t worked at a Level I trauma center?

Suicide attempts are the next most likely in this anecdotal story, most not successful (which may be because the successful ones don’t come to the ED).

As best I can tell, his primary point is that defensive gun use is much less likely than an accidental shooting of a family member, a suicide, or an intentional shooting of a family member (in a drunken rage…).

In order to examine these issues scientifically, we need to look at how many folks have firearms that were purchased for self-defense (Group A), and compare that cohort to a similar group who did not purchase firearms (for any reason, Group B). Then compare outcomes. What proportion of firearms was used in murder, accidental shooting (with outcomes), and suicide in Group A, and how much murder, accidental injury, and suicides were seen in Group B?

Instead, he cites a 1:35 ratio for defensive use/justifiable homicide to criminal homicides. But that ratio has no meaning in the context of what he is attempting to demonstrate. The proper ratio (for a society) would be defensive use per person who has legally purchased firearms for defensive uses compared to “inappropriate” use per person who has legally purchased firearms for defensive use. And most importantly, what is the ratio in YOUR house if you are purchasing firearms, or have done so, for defensive purposes?

I’m not sure why he conflates gun use deaths with defensive gun uses; let’s assume he is acting in good faith and really believes Lott and Kleck claim that there are 2,000,000 gun use deaths a year (since there are only 40,000 or so a year per DOJ, CDC, and any other reputable source, it’s unclear why the author ascribes a clearly factually incorrect assertion to the “pro-gun” folks).

How does one measure or estimate defensive gun uses, as many (most) presumably won’t be reported? Per his article, the author notes “…the judges determined more than half of the gun usages were illegal, even assuming that the respondent described the event honestly and that the person had a legally owned gun….” So can a survey truly tell us the Truth in the Universe about defensive gun use, or only estimate it? Which is what Lott and Kleck have done; ESTIMATED defensive gun use is somewhere between 100,000 to 2,000,000 times a year in the US. NOT gun deaths…

But I do agree with the author in one area. Violent crimes and homicides are on the rise after years of decreases, violent gun crime continues to trend down, and many cities seem to have an aversion to keeping criminals off the streets. So if you are one of the millions of new gun owners over the last two years (or one of the millions of old gun owners…), please store and use them responsibly. Unlike red SUV’s, firearms do not cause harm without humans directing the show.

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