Guns at home more likely to be used stupidly than in self-defense

This morning, a press release dropped that seemed designed to create controversy, given its title: “Guns in the home provide greater health risk than benefit.” The fact that it came from a relatively obscure journal—the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine is not indexed by the PubMed system, and has no impact factor—suggests it might be an attempt at getting some publicity. Studies on this topic are also extremely challenging, as it’s difficult to control for cultural and economic differences between nations and US states.

The author of the review, David Hemenway, however, specializes in this area, and works at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hemenway has been termed an “anti-gun researcher” by the NRA, and writes with a clear perspective. Nevertheless, within the limited scope of the review, his conclusions make sense: people do stupid things when angry or depressed, and the presence of a gun helps make that stupidity fatal. In contrast, successful use of a gun in self-defense is far more rare, and challenging to get right, so the public health perspective will always be skewed.

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