by Mark E. Howerter, posted May 18, 1996
"a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill you or a friend than a criminal intruder." This 'factoid' comes from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (which is anti-gun, as you know). The statistic is true, kind of, but you have to work at it. Here's how they did it: First, they counted suicides. Of those 43 gun deaths in the home, 37 are suicides. This is bogus, unless you believe that buying a gun makes you more likely to become suicidal (a very questionable proposition). There will always be other means available to a suicidal individual. Second, "you or a friend" actually means "you or anybody known to you". If the shooter knew the shootee in ANY WAY, they counted it within the 43 -- even if it was a drug dealer shooting another drug dealer over a deal gone bad. Or even a woman shooting a violent ex-boyfriend who was stalking her in her home. Many justifiable self-defense homicides are counted among the 43. The 1 only counts total strangers. Third, they count homicides in all households with guns -- even if the household gun wasn't involved in the shooting. In other words: a criminal enters a house, bringing his own gun, and shoots the homeowner. The homeowner's gun is locked securely in his safe the entire time. Regardless, this is counted among the 43, since a gun-owning homeowner was killed with a gun. Finally, it assumes that the proper measure of a gun's defensive value is the number of dead intruders it generates. 98% of the time, defensive use of a gun involves NO SHOOTING. The criminal surrenders or flees. The value of a defensive gun doesn't hinge on the criminal body count outside your front door, but rather in crimes prevented, innocent lives saved, and the continued good health of your family. The 43:1 statistic is a classic case of prejudice in research. They decided beforehand that they wanted to make guns look as bad as possible, and slanted all their numbers toward that end. The final result is meaningless.