David Frum

12.20.12

The Danger of Carrying Firearms

A Twitter follower forwards a link to a study showing that people who carry guns are much more likely to be shot and killed than people who do not carry. The study is based on after-the-fact analysis by a University of Pennsylvania team of 677 lethal shootings. The team found

that people who carried guns were 4.5 times as likely to be shot and 4.2 times as likely to get killed compared with unarmed citizens. When the team looked at shootings in which victims had a chance to defend themselves, their odds of getting shot were even higher.

While it may be that the type of people who carry firearms are simply more likely to get shot, it may be that guns give a sense of empowerment that causes carriers to overreact in tense situations, or encourages them to visit neighbourhoods they probably shouldn't, Branas speculates. Supporters of the Second Amendment shouldn't worry that the right to bear arms is under threat, however. "We don't have an answer as to whether guns are protective or perilous," Branas says. "This study is a beginning."

We could know even more, but Congress has forbidden the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence. Isn't that one gun law that's way past due for change?