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Know the West

Risky gun business


I was shocked by Hal Herring's commentary on abandoning gun control (HCN, 10/27/08). More than the inaccuracies about "the Democrats" being against the Second Amendment and the clearly mistaken judgment that Democrats are declining, it was upsetting to read the absurd notion that owning guns protects us against tyranny. Where has this author been for the last eight years? How long would any of us armed with a rifle or a handgun or anything else have lasted against our (thankfully soon-to-be-replaced) tyrannous leaders?

An Associated Press article reporting the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling last July, which struck down the District of Columbia's requirements that firearms in the home have trigger locks or be kept disassembled, noted that half of gun deaths are suicides. In the late 1970s through the early 1990s, several public health researchers, with support from the Centers for Disease Control, investigated firearms-related deaths. Their studies found that having a gun in the house increased the risk of suicide by 4.8 times. Similarly, gun ownership proved to be a significant risk factor for homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Of all firearm deaths involving a weapon kept in the home between 1978 and 1983, 333 were suicides, 41 were criminal homicides, 12 were unintentional deaths, two were justifiable homicides and seven were self-protection homicides. Another study, using the same Western site (King County, Wash.) and two others, reviewed firearm deaths that were homicides. It found that gun ownership, with factors such as age, income, neighborhood and education controlled, increased the risk of homicide 2.7 times. The public has been misled about these risks and about many other issues regarding guns as well.

Roberta Hall
Corvallis, Oregon