Does having a gun at home really make you safer?

Does having a gun at home really make you safer?
Northeastern professor Matthew Miller is one of the nation’s leading researchers of gun violence. In his previous career, he was on the front lines of another life-and-death battleground. Credit: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Keeping a gun in your home is supposed to keep you safe. Matthew Miller's research suggests that the opposite is true.

"One-third of all households have guns, and I just don't think people are aware of the risks that they're assuming for themselves, or imposing on everyone else who lives in that home," says Miller, a professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern. "I don't think people have the information. I don't think that they have internalized the risks."

As one of the nation's leading researchers of gun violence, Miller takes on the responsibility for piecing together that information. His work, which has revealed that people in households with guns face increased risk of injury, death, and suicide, is painstaking. He has co-authored recent studies that have found that Americans are generally unaware that access to guns increases the risk of suicide; and, further, that parents or caretakers tend to not recognize the need to make their guns inaccessible to children who are at risk of doing harm to themselves.

The findings have exposed Miller to the vitriol of America's debate over gun control.

"I don't spend any time worrying about that," Miller says of the attacks that come his way. "I'm actually not on , so I don't see the tweets or the Facebook posts."

He is far more concerned with the dearth of government funding for his research. It explains why his community is so relatively small: Miller estimates that only a couple of dozen colleagues throughout the United States devote at least half of their research to gun violence.

"As opposed to the thousands who are looking at , or the delivery of medical health care, or infectious disease," Miller says. "The number of people who die by motor vehicles every year is about the same as die by firearms. And 50 times as much money is spent on motor vehicle crash research—every year, federal funds—compared to funds spent on gun research."

Almost 40,000 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2017, marking the third straight year that casualties had risen. And yet, despite the public health crisis that this represents, Miller finds himself warning young scholars before they follow his example.

"It's not a field that I recommend to my graduate students, because it's not going to have steady and sufficient funding streams," Miller says. "And so anyone who wants to go into this area should go in with that in mind."

Miller's path to this line of research was itself complicated and painful. In his previous life, Miller was a rising physician at one of the world's leading cancer centers. That he exchanged that life for this one is as illuminating as it is poignant.

'Too emotionally difficult'

Miller graduated with degrees in biology and medicine from Yale. His career as a doctor was off to a strong start in the mid-1990s when he arrived at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. His professional trajectory was rising in sharp contradiction with the decline of his patients. Many of them had been unable to treat their cancer elsewhere. They came to Dana-Farber in search of live-saving miracles.

"The Dana-Farber gets referrals from all around the world, and some of the people who are referred have exhausted the known, therapeutic options elsewhere," Miller says. "They face daunting odds."

Miller found the relationships with patients and their families weighing on him. He struggled with caring for patients for whom there was very little hope.

"I just felt that taking care of people who are dying of cancer, and their families as well, which is an important and noble undertaking, was too emotionally difficult," Miller says. "It was hard to attend to the existential and emotional needs that my patients and their families had, and still have time to remain connected to the things in my life that were important to me. I was taking it home with me."

He was having difficulty maintaining the crucial balance between their needs and his own needs.

"The patients and their families deserved to have someone who could be there 24/7," Miller says.

In his move away from medicine, Miller found himself turning to public health research—with a focus on America's most toxic subject of research.

Leaping head-first into the American gun debate was an opportunity to save lives without sacrificing his own. Miller returned to school. On weekends, he moonlighted in hospital emergency rooms to help pay his bills. He found his way.

Changing behaviors

As frustrating as it has been for Miller to see lawmakers refusing to institute gun reforms that are backed by a majority of Americans, he has also realized that congressional action alone cannot resolve the crisis.

"I think the biggest benefit that we're going to see, in lives saved and injuries averted, is when the social norms change around what it means to be a responsible gun owner—of not taking on the risk of bringing guns into your home and storing them unsafely," Miller says. "We're not going to legislate our way out of a lot of those problems."

Much of his work has focused on suicides by firearms, which Miller views, in many cases, as preventable deaths. In moments of desperate weakness, people kill themselves with guns that are accessible because they have not been locked away in the home. If the guns were not readily available, says Miller, the rate of death would drop.

"They would be better off if the gun were stored away from the home, or at the very least in a way that anyone at risk doesn't have access to that gun," Miller says.

Those who are forced to attempt suicide by another method, he says, would have a higher chance of surviving.

"When you take pills, or you cut yourself, fewer than two or three percent of those people die [by suicide]," Miller says.

Among those survivors, fewer than 10 percent will go on to die in a subsequent suicide attempt.

"Whereas the likelihood of death with a gun is 90-plus percent, with no chance to back out," Miller says. "You pull the trigger, and usually you don't get a second chance. So you can save lives by making it harder for people. You're exchanging a 90 percent chance of dying for what is usually going to be a substantially lower risk."

Miller is focused on supplying evidence that may change behaviors. He approaches his research from the perspective of someone who disrupted his own career path.

"My identity as a clinician was one of the things I had the most confidence in," says Miller, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and co-director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. "Giving that up and starting again, from scratch, that was hard. Because there was a real void, and it was like, who am I?"

He understands that the struggle to reform the American relationship with guns will continue to be slow going.

"I don't think human beings have all that much insight into why they do lots of things," he says.


Explore further

Clearing up misconceptions about gun violence could make suicide attempts less deadly, study says

More information: John Scott et al. Firearm Storage in Homes With Children With Self-Harm Risk Factors, Pediatrics (2018). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2017-2600

Andrew Conner et al. Public Opinion About the Relationship Between Firearm Availability and Suicide: Results From a National Survey, Annals of Internal Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.7326/M17-2348

Citation: Does having a gun at home really make you safer? (2019, February 13) retrieved 21 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-02-gun-home-safer.html
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Feb 13, 2019
The real question is: Does having a gun at home really make you safer from criminals?

Feb 13, 2019
Not according to my insurance company- and they go on actuarial statistics. I have insurance I couldn't get if I owned a gun.

Feb 13, 2019
Is this guy retarded? Seriously? He thinks being a "responsible gun owner" means "not bringing guns into your home". Because people "in a moment of weakness" will kill themselves. He says its better to attempt suicide with methods other than a gun because you have a better chance to survive...His answer? We need to "legislate our way out of these problems"... I dont think you can legislate suicide. People who want to die will die. People who dont die from their suicide attempt mostly are doing it for attention or as a cry for help. Taking guns away because a few people will try and use them incorrectly is a stale old argument from the left. It is extremely concerning that these are the kinds of people who are brainwashing our kids in college.

Feb 13, 2019
Not according to my insurance company- and they go on actuarial statistics. I have insurance I couldn't get if I owned a gun.

I know several insurance agents, none of them have EVER heard of guns affecting your insurance rates or coverage in any way. Dont lie to try and make a point.

Feb 13, 2019
I wonder what Mr. Miller will do if/when a criminal kicks in his front door. Perhaps he's just another socialist hypocrite and he's secretly armed to the teeth. But then, rules are for us little people, not the elite left.

Feb 13, 2019
Well according to the Liberals walls do not work either. So guys and gals remember be safe and have no guns and don't bother to lock your doors. Just the Venezuelans what happened when they gave up their guns.

Feb 13, 2019
There is no more evidence based debate in the US. It;s all one clique against another. Hatfields and MCCoys - What is your tribe is the only thing required to determine your point of view, and changing tribes is almost impossible- certainly not done by evidence of any sort. Climate, Gun Control, Abortion, Immigration, most contentious issues are not up for evidential argument any more.

Feb 13, 2019
By this logic, we should ban high bridges and buildings as well. Most attempts by people who jump off them are successful and screw everyone who has a legitimate reason for wanting or using bridges or tall buildings. How about addressing the mental illness that goes along with self-harm and stop blaming the methods that people use.

Feb 13, 2019
. He says its better to attempt suicide with methods other than a gun


This is actually a case of begging the question.

Suicide is a matter of choice, not a random risk. If the gun is not home, other means can be found elsewhere. All that matters for this question is whether you file the suicide under "gun at home" or "other". People can even obtain guns in order to commit suicide, which still gets filed under "gun at home" because, where else would they have it?

Feb 13, 2019
I know several insurance agents, none of them have EVER heard of guns affecting your insurance rates or coverage in any way. Dont lie to try and make a point
Yeah scheide does that a lot. You cant trust a thing he says.

Feb 13, 2019
Empty guns kill children playing with the family gun
when marauders come calling, having a gun in the house will not save you
not with the military grade fire arms marauders have
well, their not going out on the town with only handguns
now that would be not sensible
Believe what you think
if you think a handgun will save you, it's your choice
but not against armed marauders
because
they have intent
The householder does not have intent

Feb 13, 2019
"Almost 40,000 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2017"

-including gangbangers, looters, criminals during the commission of a crime shot by cops, homeowners, and potential victims, husbands in their final act of abusing their wives and kids, etc.

Dozens on youtube for your education
https://www.youtu...OSjkeLvs
https://www.youtu...CPeWvplI
https://www.youtu...k85ZOJUQ
etc.
-Happens every day.

Feb 13, 2019
A quote from the article:
He is far more concerned with the dearth of government funding for his research.


That really says it all. He wants more money. That's why he puts out this nonsensical "research".

Feb 13, 2019
police have long reels of yellow crime scene tape, and after your helpless family is killed the will festoon your house with it. If you are not willing to defend yourself you are eliminated by natural selection. Hope you like the cheery yellow tape.

Feb 13, 2019
Heres a goodie
https://www.youtu...6KV-nD_M

Abe Lincoln freed the slaves. Sam Houston made them equal.

Feb 14, 2019
That really says it all. He wants more money. That's why he puts out this nonsensical "research".

If he wanted more money he could easily change his field of research. I think that there is more than enough money in the field of oncology. Perhaps he is doing this research for another reason.

Feb 14, 2019
Yer gonna be sorrier than a broke-dick dog when the cesspool gangs bring their guns looking for climate deniers and liars to string up by your ankles over cesspools as the tide comes up.

Feb 14, 2019
If you really think guns somehow prevent crimes, why is a western nation like USA with most civilian weapons per person in top of almost all crime statistic? Is it just that you're violent and stupid or maybe the guns have an negative effect?

https://www.natio...ll-stats

Feb 14, 2019
"If you really think guns somehow prevent crimes, why is a western nation like USA with most civilian weapons per person in top of almost all crime statistic?"

The US has a HUGE drug problem and open borders exacerbate the problem by allowing gangs to flourish in many major cities. Most of the gun deaths are turf wars. Our problem is a culture problem not a gun problem.

Feb 14, 2019
By this logic, we should ban high bridges and buildings as well.

Really? I wasn't aware that high bridges and buildings are purposely designed to kill people. Well, I learn something new every day. So, by this 'new' logic, we should also allow known terrorists to legally have bombs, guns, etc.

Feb 14, 2019
Eschew eristic.

Feb 14, 2019
---continued---

In fact, with this new improved logic, we should make it legal for any American to own his own nuke. -it's their God given right. It should have been written into the American constitution along with their God given right to own a gun and blow someone's ****ing head off. The world would be a much safer place if everyone owned a gun and a nuke.

Feb 14, 2019
Re owning your own nuke, it's been thought about. Go read some Vernor Vinge. Pay particular attention to the short stories.

Feb 14, 2019
"If you really think guns somehow prevent crimes, why is a western nation like USA with most civilian weapons per person in top of almost all crime statistic?"
The highest crime rates are in the states with the strictest gun laws. Unarmed people are the easiest to victimize, as in London, 'the assault capital of europe'.

Feb 14, 2019
their God given right to own a gun and blow someone's ****ing head off
Watch this vid to see this attitude of yours in action;
https://youtu.be/VThEm-UhFIs

-Armed robber approaches a group of parents and kids with a gun pointed right at them and is shot in the chest by an off-duty cop. Look at the expression on his face - he looks genuinely surprised and alarmed that someone would actually shoot him.

All a big fucking game to criminals like this. Laughing and giggling as they stomp some old man or pregnant woman. They feel they have every right to victimize outsiders. And they are as offended as you are when somebody stops them in the only way possible.

I was in a convenience store one night when carloads of black school kids pulled up. They rushed in chanting something like ariana grande's 'I see it, I want it, I take it, I have it' as they stole armloads of stuff.

There was a little old lady behind the counter watching tv, ignoring them.

Loads of fun.

Feb 14, 2019
^^^^^ F^^^ing shithole you must live in. Thankfully, most of the rest of the world do not live in such shit conditions. Eh? Which part of the third world are you from?

Feb 14, 2019
^^^^^ F^^^ing shithole you must live in. Thankfully, most of the rest of the world do not live in such shit conditions. Eh? Which part of the third world are you from?
Detroit.

Feb 15, 2019
"If you really think guns somehow prevent crimes, why is a western nation like USA with most civilian weapons per person in top of almost all crime statistic?"
The highest crime rates are in the states with the strictest gun laws.
Hasn't it occurred to you that the gun laws have been made stricter in those states BECAUSE of their higher crime rate, and not the other way around? -that would make a LOT more sense.

Feb 15, 2019
their God given right to own a gun and blow someone's ****ing head off
Watch this vid to see this attitude of yours in action;
The man in that video wouldn't have a gun to threaten anyone if all personal ownership of guns were strictly prevented to all people. Your point? If my "attitude" was put into action, he wouldn't ever have a gun. I guess your "attitude" is to hand him and other psychopaths guns and then tell other people they need guns to defend themselves from the psychopaths. I have a better idea; don't let people have guns.

Feb 15, 2019
Problem with gun(ownership) of even the most sensible people is:
No one is proof against having a really bad day.
No one is proof against developing mental health issues.
No one is proof against getting old
No one is proof against inebriation.

Even if you have a gun with the best intentions (whatever that means) - having such a force-multiplier close at hand when your mental facilities are compromised is just a recipe for disaster. For you and anyone within range of the gun.

Feb 15, 2019
Hasn't it occurred to you that the gun laws have been made stricter in those states BECAUSE of their higher crime rate
-and the rate of assaults has continued to escalate DESPITE the laws.

"A new study released by the University of Pittsburgh finds that nearly 8 in 10 gun crimes are committed with illegally-possessed guns. The findings are summarized in this Washington Post headline: "New Evidence Confirms what Gun Rights Advocates Have Said for a Long Time about Crime." What the NRA has been saying all along is that criminals, by definition, don't follow the law. As a result, new gun control laws will do nothing to prevent crime and make us safer."
having such a force-multiplier close at hand when your mental facilities are compromised
Gunphobes like aa decide they're bad first and then use absurd logic like 'since misuse happens nobody should have them'.

And so do their lying politicians who know how to play their emotions.

Feb 15, 2019
Bad guys will always be able to overpower you, weapons or not. The ONLY WAY to dependably defend yourself is with a gun.

There is no way around this logic except to ignore it and to lie about it.

Feb 15, 2019
The overwhelming majority of lawful gun owners are rational, mature adults who have never committed crimes or mishandled their guns. And when forced to use them in self-defense these people have used them responsibly and with restraint.

"The value of guns for self-defense isn't measured in the number of criminals killed, but in the number of violent crime victimizations prevented...

"Fatal shootings of criminals account for only a fraction of all defensive gun uses... criminals are killed or non-fatally wounded in less than one percent of defensive gun uses...

"widespread gun ownership deters some crimes from occurring in the first place. A study of imprisoned criminals found that 40 percent had decided not to commit one or more crimes for fear their prospective victims were armed...

"home invasions while the residents are at home—is much lower in the United States, where residents with guns are common, than in England, where guns are almost entirely outlawed."

Feb 15, 2019
The man in that video wouldn't have a gun to threaten anyone if all personal ownership of guns were strictly prevented to all people
1) you will NEVER eliminate guns from society. The australia semiauto ban only got 20% of the weapons in civilian hands.
2) even if your fantasy could happen, criminals would have guns long after the law-abiding were disarmed and
3) that guy would have attacked that group of parents and children with a knife, or a bat, or gasoline for the same reason. And chances are he would have succeeded.
Your point?
You're clueless.

Feb 15, 2019
The overwhelming majority of lawful gun owners are rational, mature adults who have never committed crimes or mishandled their guns.
TheGhostofOtto1923

So what? What about those with guns that that DO commit crime?
And what about those lawful gun owners are rational etc but then accidentally shoot someone?
1) you will NEVER eliminate guns from society
only if people like you get their way.
There are no guns in my neighborhood; proof it must be possible.
2) even if your fantasy could happen, criminals would have guns long after the law-abiding were disarmed
So according to your 'logic', rather than gradiually eliminating guns from where the criminals can access them, we should allow those criminals for ever to get their hands on more whenever they wish. NOT a solution.
3) that guy would have attacked that group of parents and children with a knife, or a bat, or gasoline for the same reason.
How do you know this? Are you a mind reader?

Feb 15, 2019
rather than gradiually eliminating guns
Not possible. Plenty of guns all over the world. Millions of full-auto weapons in warehouses just waiting for markets to open up. The island of britain already has a major problem with smuggled weapons; imagine if the market opens up in the US with its porous borders.

Full auto guns are simpler and easier to manufacture than conventional weapons. You want to create a market for them.
we should allow those criminals for ever to get their hands on more whenever they wish
You will NEVER rid the world of guns. Ignore that. DENY that.

And like I say, even in your own home you cannot dependably protect yourself from an invader with anything BUT A GUN. In YOUR hand, at the moment you are threatened.
Are you a mind reader?
So YOU THINK its worth taking a chance that the kind of person who would attack a group of WOMEN and CHILDREN, wouldnt do so with another weapon?

WHY would you EVER want to take that chance???

Feb 15, 2019
What about those with guns that DO commit crime?
And what about those lawful gun owners are rational etc but then accidentally shoot someone?
Guns are a necessity and a right.

"Since 1903, the earliest year of data available, the per capita rate of gun accident deaths has decreased 94 percent, from 3.1 to 0.18 deaths per 100,000 population.[1]
Over the last 20 years, annual numbers of gun accident deaths have decreased by more than half.[2] Concurrently, Americans have acquired over 150 million new guns and today own approximately 350 million guns, an all-time high.[3]
Guns are involved in 0.4 percent of accidental deaths among the total population and 1.3 percent among children.[4] Today, the odds are more than a million to one against a child in the U.S. dying in a gun accident."

"Comparing accidents to accidents alone, motor vehicle traffic accident deaths outnumber firearm accident deaths 57 to one..."

-You believe lies and you spread lies.

Feb 15, 2019
There are no guns in my neighborhood; proof it must be possible
Uh huh. And your neighborhood is indicative of every other one in the country. Do YOU live in detroit?

And did the police go through every one of those houses and remove all the guns that were there?You think this might be the only way of removing the approximately 350 million guns in the US? And how many of those guns would end up buried in backyards?

Like I say, the aussi gun ban only got 20%.

"It was one of the biggest gun-smuggling operations in Australian history — a brazen scheme that shocked New South Wales Police and embarrassed Australian Customs officials.

"At the time of their arrest in 2012, the syndicate had plans to bring in hundreds more Glock pistols into Australia.

"Only a fraction of the handguns they smuggled in have ever been found. More than 100 are still on the streets, in the hands of criminals"

-Your fantasies get people killed.

Feb 15, 2019
Gun owners are SCARED of life.

SCARED!!

Feb 15, 2019
Gun owners are SCARED of life.

SCARED!!
And psychopaths have no fear... or any other emotion. Havent we been here before george?

Feb 15, 2019
The overwhelming majority of lawful gun owners are rational, mature adults

At the point of purchase, maybe - though I think a strong case can be made for anyone who owns a gun not being the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with.
you will NEVER eliminate guns from society

Just because something is hard doesn't mean it can't be done. Humanity is fighting stuff from poverty to illiteracy to the plague. And occasionally we do manage to snuff one of those out.
criminals would have guns long after the law-abiding were disarmed

So? Just make sentences for crimes involving guns extremely high. Works in japan. Almost no criminal even dares use a gun there. At 130m people living there they had just 22 gun related crimes last year.
https://www.nippo...are.html

Feb 15, 2019
At the point of purchase, maybe - though I think a strong case can be made for anyone who owns a gun not being the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with
That's right - start the argument with an insult. 'Intelligent, sophisticated people dont need to defend themselves'. Doesnt sound very intelligent to me.
Just because something is hard doesn't mean it can't be done
Never in english means impossible, not difficult. Versteht?
So? Just make sentences for crimes involving guns extremely high
Theyre already extremely high. One yr mandatory for simple possession in nj, ny, ca, il.
Works in japan
Japan doesnt have the gang and drug problem that the US has. Only one of many differences.

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