11/04/2013 12:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Mainly, Crooks and Fools Own Guns (Other Than Government Officials), Say Data

Gallup headlined on 28 October 2013, "Personal Safety Top Reason Americans Own Guns," and reported that 60% of gun-owners chose "Personal safety/Protection" as a reason for owning a gun. 36% chose "Hunting." 13% chose "Recreation/Sport." 8% chose "Target shooting." Those were the chief reasons chosen by respondents - all of whom were gun-owners - from among the 13 options that were offered in the survey.

But what about those 60% of gun-owners who chose "Personal safety/Protection"? Are their guns actually providing them "Personal safety/protection"? Or are their guns instead overwhelmingly endangering them?

Back in 2000, a study, "The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results From a National Survey," reported that, "Criminal gun use is far more common than self-defense gun use." More recently, in 2011, another study, "Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home," found that:

"The evidence is overwhelming ... that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes. ... There is no credible evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms, or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in."

In other words: those 60% of gun-owners were fools, according to the data; and illegal uses of guns (other than for hunting, target-shooting, etc.) are vastly more common than any uses of guns in actual self-defense.

The National Rifle Association and other gun-lobbyists say that if only more non-crooks owned guns, then perhaps it would no longer be the case that most gun-uses (other than by officers of the law) are by crooks. However, the data contradict this anti-government (or at least anti-police) nostrum, too: the latter-mentioned study found: "Overall, the evidence indicates that a gun in the home is a risk factor for serious accidental injury." Even if police can't protect you, you're safer not to try doing it yourself. On top of that: "among methods commonly used in suicide attempts, firearms are the most lethal." Moreover: "Many suicides appear to be impulsive acts. Individuals who take their own lives often do so when confronting a severe but temporary crisis."

So: when, perhaps, your child becomes depressed and tries to take his own life, he's vastly likelier to succeed if there is a gun in the house. Furthermore: "Individuals have especially high risks of suicide if they live in homes with loaded guns and unlocked guns." However, if a homeowner instead keeps his guns unloaded, or else locked away in a cabinet, then the usefulness of his guns for self-defense against an attacker plunges drastically; a gun that isn't ready-at-hand isn't likely to be the one that will be shot the first when an intruder barges in. The intruder is ready-equipped; the victim is usually either surprised, or else panicked, and is thus in an intrinsically weaker position even if he has an AK-47 somewhere.

So: Whose fools are those 60%? All studies show that gun-owners are overwhelmingly conservatives. Often, they own other weapons too. For example, there is a website for archery-owners, which asked its people, "Who has a weapon by their bed at all times?" and 76% of their 93 respondents said that they did; and, of the many who then chose to describe their "weapon," 100% of them described some type of gun; none of them described a bow and arrow, though each of these conservatives possessed and used those weapons, too, since this was specifically an archery-website.

In other words: the type of people who shut down the government, and who voted for George W. Bush, and who believed that Saddam Hussein had WMD and that we should invade Iraq, and who think that Barack Obama is an atheistic Muslim communist who was born secretly in Africa, are also the chief customers for the gun-manufacturers who are behind the pro-gun and anti-government propaganda. Conservatives don't care about what the data show. The fact that their beliefs repeatedly violate the data hasn't bothered them at all in the past, and so they are just being consistent to swallow lies about guns; so, they do. They think that being otherwise than they are would be simply anti-American.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.