Guns Kill People ... Who Own Guns

A new study puts the more macho pro-gun arguments in a different light.

The debate over guns strikes me as odd. I can't quite grasp why it's viewed as a left-right issue -- a matter of ideology -- as opposed to a rural-urban divide. I've owned guns myself when I lived in the boondocks, but in a city, packed in like sardines with lunatics of all stripes, I'd prefer there be as few guns as possible within range of my windows.

Obviously, it's not easy to have a liberal gun policy in rural areas and stricter controls in cities, but in my mind, that tension should at least form the parameters of debate (and if you look carefully at who's on which side, it often does; think about Rudy Giuliani's outspoken support for gun control, or the fact that even the most progressive Dems from rural districts oppose it).

But gun-rights absolutists -- I don't like "gun nuts" -- answer that dense cities are precisely where firearms come in handiest. After all, you never know when you'll have to fend off a band of roaming zombies in the big city.

And similar arguments extend to just about everywhere they'd like to carry. In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, one pro-gun blogger wrote that the lesson we needed to learn was:

...we should be crusading to abolish 'gun free zones.' History has shown us time and again that, rather than protecting children, gun free zones actually endanger them. They endanger them by creating a magnet for homicidal psychopaths who know they will meet no resistance, and they endanger them by preventing responsible adults from deploying the means to defend the innocent and counter the threat of the evil.

That's built on a profoundly silly idea -- that we're all potential John Waynes who just need to be in the right place at the right time in order to heroically save the day with our shiny heaters. Ordinary people, if heavily armed, can be their own SWAT teams! Same for home defense -- the cops might take minutes to respond to a call, but your H & K is right there in the drawer, loaded and ready for bear.

I've always thought there was more mindless machismo to the argument than common sense, and a new study appears to back up that view:

In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.

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