| May 21, 2003
Live with a Gun, Die by a Gun?
Study Links Guns in the Home with Increased Deaths
(Philadelphia, PA) - If
you keep a gun in your home, you dramatically increase
the odds that you will die of a gunshot wound, according
to research published in the June issue of the Annals
of Emergency Medicine.
"Keeping guns at home is dangerous for adults regardless
of age, sex, or race," said Douglas J. Wiebe,
PhD, Instructor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
and a fellow at Penn's Firearm Injury Center. Wiebe
led the study by the Violence Prevention Research Group
at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
before moving to Penn.
Wiebe's study found that people with a gun in their
home were almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related
homicide, and 16 times more likely to use a gun to commit
suicide, than people without a gun in their home. The
findings support widely debated studies published a
decade ago in the New England Journal of Medicine that
also link the presence of a gun in the house with increased
rates of suicide and death by homicide.
One in every three households in the United States
contains firearms; the number of guns in those homes
totals nearly 200 million, according to the National
Institute of Justice. In his study, Wiebe compared 1,720
homicide victims and 1,959 suicide vicitms over the
age of 18 with a sampling of American adults.
"Our findings suggest that, when violence occurs and
a gun is accessible, the gun may be selected for use
over a weapon that is less lethal," Wiebe said. "That
is particularly significant in terms of suicides and
Wiebe's study also found that handguns accounted for
40 percent of all domestic homicides and one-third of
all suicides. In fact, according to the research, people
with a gun in the home were significant less likely
than others to use a non-gun weapon for suicide.
"This may be a function of the fact that a gun requires
little preparation. Tragically, because gunshot wounds
are so traumatic, almost all gunshot suicide attempts
are fatal," Wiebe said."Emergency department staff at
hospitals throughout the country see the devastation
caused by guns on a daily basis. In any 24-hour period,
more than 160 people are treated for gunshot wounds,"
Wiebe said. "Physicians should talk with their patients
about the implications of owning a gun, particularly
if those patients appear suicidal or present signs of
The research was funded by the California Wellness
Foundation and the California Endowment.