Concealed Carry's Illusion of Safety

12.11.12 8:56 PM ET

Gun advocates won a big victory today. The Seventh Circuit overturned Illinois' law forbidding concealed-carry of handguns - the last remaining law in the whole country against concealed carry.  Americans in every state are now free to wonder whether the person next to them in the movie lineup might be carrying a weapon.

In light of this decision, it seems newsworthy to dust off two columns I wrote this summer about the illusion that more guns will bring Americans more safety.

Here's the first:

A gun in the house minimally doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself. (Some studies put the increase in suicide risk as high as 10 times.) An American is 50% more likely to be shot dead by his or her own hand than to be shot dead by a criminal assailant. More than 30,000 Americans injure themselves with guns every year.

And here's the second:

When we hear the phrase "defensive gun use," we're inclined to imagine a gun owner producing a weapon to defend himself or herself against bodily threat. Not so fast. The authors of the 1995 study aggregated 13 prior polls of gun users, most of which did not define what was meant by "use." As the authors of the 1995 aggregation study themselves ruefully acknowledged: "The lack of such detail raises the possibility that the guns were not actually 'used' in any meaningful way. Instead, (respondents) might be remembering occasions on which they merely carried a gun for protection 'just in case' or investigated a suspicious noise in their backyard, only to find nothing." In other words, even if the figure of 2.5 million defensive gun uses had been correct at some point back in the early 1990s or early 1980s, the vast majority of those "uses" may be householders picking up a shotgun before checking out the noises in the garage made by raccoons rooting through the trash.