January 22, 2014 in Nation/World

Risk of death higher with guns present, study shows

Melissa Healy Los Angeles Times
 

People who have ready access to a firearm are almost twice as likely to be murdered, and three times likelier to commit suicide, than those without a gun available in the home or from a neighbor or friend, a new study has concluded.

While men and women with firearms access were about equally likely to take their own lives with a gun, the latest research turned up a gender gap when it came to homicide. Compared to all adults without access to a gun, men with firearm access were 29 percent more likely to die in a gun-related homicide. But the analysis found that a woman who had a gun in or available to her household was close to three times likelier to die by homicide.

Previous studies have found that three-quarters of women who are killed with a gun die in their home and that women typically know their assailant. That suggests that women who live in homes with a firearm are more likely to be gunned down in a domestic dispute or by an abusive partner, the research team wrote in their study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine. But the group did not venture an explanation for why men with gun access were not much more vulnerable than other adults.

The United States is thought to have the highest rate of gun ownership of any country, with close to 4 in 10 households owning a firearm. The nation’s gun-related homicide rate is higher than that of any other high-income country, and its rate of suicides by gunshot exceeds that of any other country that maintains such data.

For the new study, epidemiologists from the University of California, San Francisco, combined and distilled the findings of existing studies of firearms-related injuries. While its conclusions were in line with a wealth of studies already in hand, they may provide a conservative estimate of the risk of gun-related death among those who own or have access to a firearm.

The analysis relied only on studies that started with a population of known gun-related homicide and suicide victims, then established whether and what kind of access to firearms those victims had and compared them to matched populations that had not died. They wanted to find whether a “true link between gun ownership and harms outcomes” could be drawn, they wrote.


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