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Opinion

Essay: Is firearm ownership more dangerous than we think?

Most firearms in the U.S. are not being used for protection purposes. Instead, firearms have a close correlation with an increase in firearm injury and deaths within the home.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/edwinbai/" target="_self">Edwin Bai</a>

Edwin Bai

December 1, 2022
In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting and Buffalo shooting, the topic of gun control rises once again to the forefront of American politics. On the conservative side, guns are deemed a necessity, a key component of American identity set in stone by the 2nd Amendment, a tool used to prevent tyranny of the government. On the liberal side, guns are dangerous and completely unneeded in modern American society.

In this debate, much of the reasoning and logical thinking required to handle a nuanced topic is quickly thrown out the window, dominated by emotions and fallacies. The proper solution to the issue of gun control is complicated, and it is necessary that we take a step back from the incessant yelling in political debates to fully comprehend the matter. The tragedies of mass shootings in the United States points to the simple fact that gun control must be increased substantially in order to ensure the safety of American citizens.

So why should we have access to firearms in the United States? According to Pew Research Center, 67% of gun owners own a gun for protection, while 38% and 30% cite hunting and sport shooting respectively as a major reason. Others claim that owning a gun is essential to their sense of personal freedom. Hunting and sports are certainly valid reasons for having a gun, should they be used properly and specifically for said reasons. On the other hand, owning guns for protection, though it is a valid concern, has been proven to be less defensible for a reason than the other two. 

The United States is home to almost 400 million firearms, as documented by World Population Review, yet the amount of times these firearms are actually used for self defensive purposes is far lower. Nonprofit journalism publication The Trace reports that 2% of nonfatal violent crime victims and 1% of property crime victims used firearms in self-defense. Clearly, the instances in which firearms are used in self defense are not very common, at least in comparison to the instances in which firearms are used in an aggressive manner. 

In 2018, there were almost 500,000 cases of firearm victimizations, compared to just 70,000 cases of defensive gun uses, according to The Trace. That’s over a sevenfold increase in victimizations caused by firearms. From this data we can conclude that although most people purchase firearms for defensive purposes, the actual instances in which guns were used defensively are a miniscule fraction compared to the amount of guns in the United States. Clearly, most firearms in the United States are not being used for protection purposes. It’s quite the opposite actually. 

Instead, it’s been proven that firearms actually have a close correlation with an increase in firearm injury and deaths within the home. According to The Trace, having a firearm in the home increases the chances of accidental injury, homicide, and suicide. In fact, researchers discovered that having a gun at home was linked with a threefold increase in the likelihood of someone being killed at home by a family member.

This statistic is often the result of heated family disputes; when in the heat of things, people may act irrationally, driven by emotions which could lead to unwanted consequences. When considering the rise in domestic violence during the COVID pandemic as documented by the Washington Post, these numbers become very worrying. 

Moreover, the correlation between guns and injury is further proven by the number of accidental gun deaths. The rate of firearm injury is higher within a home than anywhere else, unsurprisingly, as guns can easily fall into the hands of children who don’t know any better.

According to a study published in Science, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun sales increased massively, and so did the rate of accidental firearm deaths. It’s estimated that around 60 people, 20 of which were children, were killed because of the excess guns people purchased. 

Evidently, more guns have a greater correlation with more accidents, especially if said firearms are easily accessible within the home, which, in fact, is the case with most cases of gun storage. A publication by the American Public Health Association states that only 46% of Americans safely store their guns, and in cases in which gun owners are concerned about home defense, the practice of storing all guns safely decreases significantly.

Furthermore, due to the closure of firearm training facilities during COVID, people are less likely to be trained in firearm proficiency, which contributes to the rate of accidental firearm injury. In addition, firearm training has been noted to not have any association with safe storage practices either. So regardless of how proficient one is with a gun, it doesn’t necessarily correlate with storing said gun safely and out of reach of children and inexperienced users. Thus, firearms have been proven to be a danger at times to both the owner and those around them in the house. 

The argument for gun control is supported by evidence of the effectiveness of gun control laws. According to Columbia University, there are multiple approaches to reduce firearm deaths through federal laws, all of which are widely effective. Implementing universal background checks for gun purchases would more than halve the national firearm deaths, while background checks for ammunition and firearm identification would reduce gun deaths by more than 80%. All together, the combination of the three gun laws could drastically diminish the amount of firearm deaths to a mere fraction of what it is currently. 

This fact is reflected in the real world. States with stricter gun laws tend to have lower firearm deaths, as proven by states like California, New York, and New Jersey. These states have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, according to World Population Review. They also have some of the lowest firearm death rates as stated by the CDC. The opposite is also true. Mississippi has the most lenient gun control laws in the nation and the nation’s highest firearm death rates. As proven by real world examples in the United States, stricter gun control laws lead to lower gun death rates.