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February 4, 2010 Julie G Heflin
(502) 852-7987
julie.heflin@louisville.edu

Keeping guns at home is unsafe

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—People who keep guns at home are much more likely to hurt or kill themselves or a loved one than to stop an intruder, a new report shows.

Although having a gun in the house may make some people feel safer, evidence shows that just the opposite is true, says Steven Lippmann, a University of Louisville psychiatrist.

Not only does suicide occur more often in homes with guns, but the people who live in those homes and their family and friends face more than 12 times the risk of being hurt or killed than the unwanted visitors they are trying to keep out.

In Kentucky, suicide accounts for about 70 percent of all gun-related deaths and guns are used to commit nearly two-thirds of all domestic murders, according to 2008 data from the UofL Department of Emergency Medicine Gunshot Wound Registry.

“Our review demonstrates beyond a doubt that guns pose a much greater danger to people who keep them in their homes than to anyone else,” Lippmann said.

He cited a previous study of 395 fatal home shootings in Seattle. Only nine of those deaths involved intruders, while 333 were suicides, 41 were domestic murders and 12 were accidental killings.

Gun-related violence also puts a huge strain on U.S. healthcare and criminal justice systems at the expense of taxpayers and people and organizations who buy health insurance. The problem adds $100 billion a year to the nation’s healthcare bill and costs our criminal justice system about $2.4 billion a year.

The study “Do Guns Provide Safety? At What Cost?” will appear tomorrow in Southern Medical Journal, the Southern Medical Association’s monthly journal.

Researchers from UofL’s emergency medicine and psychiatry departments and the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis collaborated on the project.

An abstract of the report appears at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20065902?log$=activity

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