Guns may scare intimates, not intruders

April 27, 2011 at 7:52 PM
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BOSTON, April 27 (UPI) -- When it comes to murder by gun, most U.S. men are killed away from home, but most children, older adults and women die at home, a U.S. researcher says.

Study author David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health studied the various risks of having a gun in the home, including accidents, suicide, homicide and intimidation, as well as the benefits such as deterrence and thwarting crimes. He concludes a gun in the home poses a greater health risk than a potential benefit.

"There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes, and it appears that a gun in the home may more likely be used to threaten intimates than to protect against intruders," Hemenway said in a statement. "On the potential benefit side, there is no good 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."

About 32 percent of U.S. homes had at least one firearm last year, down from 54 percent in 1977.

The review said a gun in the home is a particularly strong risk factor for female homicide victimization and an increased risk of suicide.

"Even though suicide attempts with guns are infrequent, more Americans kill themselves with guns than with all other methods combined," Hemenway added."That is because among methods commonly used in suicide attempts, firearms are the most lethal."

The findings are published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

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