Chapter 5. Location
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Chapter 5  Location Dear Miss Manners: When my little Johnny wishes to play at Jimmy’s house, how do I ask Jimmy’s parents if they keep firearms, and if so, whether they store them in a locked cabinet? Dear Gentle Reader: When one child visits another, the visitor’s parent uses an apologetic tone—as if to admit that her fastidiousness is slightly comic—when she explains rules that may conflict with the standards of the household visited: “I’m afraid we feel Johnny is too young to play in houses where there are firearms . If that is a problem, perhaps you would send Jimmy to play with him here instead” (Never mind the fact that Johnny may be 40). —Miss Manners Gun use can occur in various locations, including at home, at school, and on the street and in other public venues. This chapter examines guns in these three settings, starting with the home. The first section describes empirical evidence on the actual and psychological risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, the way Americans store their guns at home, and the effects of firearms training on gun storage and use. The second section discusses the prevalence and consequences of guns in schools, including colleges. The final section describes public opinion about carrying guns in public and the evidence concerning the effects of state gun-carrying laws. Guns in the Home While firearms have a variety of purposes, the principal reason most Americans claim for having a handgun is protection. Yet the evidence indicates that, in most households, a gun makes the home less safe. Having a gun in the home has many risks and benefits. Early studies focused on one of the most palpable and easily measured uses of a gun at home—to 79 kill. Researchers found that a gun in the home was much more likely to kill innocent victims than criminals. For example, a study using medical examiner records from Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio, for 1958–73 found 115 fatal gun accidents occurring at home, compared to killings by residents of 23 burglars, robbers, or intruders who were not relatives or acquaintances, a fiveto -one ratio (Rushforth et al. 1975). A study in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, examined a more complete record of gun deaths occurring at home, including family suicides and murders, in the period 1978–83. Only 2 of the 398 gun deaths at home involved intruders who were shot during an attempted entry, and only 9 were “self-protection” homicides. For every self-defense homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 firearm suicides (Kellermann and Reay 1986). In an even more complete study of gunshot injuries in the home, researchers examined nonfatal injuries as well as deaths. A study of firearm injuries in three cities (Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas) in 1992–94 found 626 fatal and nonfatal shootings occurring at residences. Only 13 injuries were considered legally justifiable or acts of self-defense. Three of these self-defense shootings were by law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty; 3 women shot former boyfriends; 1 man shot his brother; and 6 citizens shot strangers, nonintimate acquaintances, or unidentified assailants. Examining only cases in which the gun involved was known to be kept in the home, guns in the home were four times more likely to be involved in accidents, seven times more likely to be used in criminal assaults or homicides , and eleven times more likely to be used in attempted or completed suicides than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense (Kellermann et al. 1998). A similar study of all gunshot injuries in Galveston, Texas, over a three-year period found only two incidents that were related to residential burglary or robbery. In one, the homeowner was shot and killed by a burglar; in the other, the homeowner shot the burglar. During the same interval, guns in the home were involved in the death and injury of more than one hundred residents, family members, friends, or acquaintances (Lee et al. 1991). It is more difficult to measure other risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, including the use of guns to threaten and intimidate family, friends, and acquaintances. Guns in the home, particularly gun collections, may increase the likelihood of burglary by criminals enticed by these valuables 80 PRIVATE GUNS, PUBLIC HEALTH...