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Maybe think twice before buying that gun

Americans are once again going on a gun-buying spree. The statistics suggest many of these purchasers are first-time gun buyers. Most are seeking greater security for themselves and their families in these uncertain times of a pandemic, deep political divides, and the appearance, at least, of rising crime.

But, according to the data, these guns will actually make these families less safe, because those guns have a far higher chance of being used in a suicide or against a family member than to stop an intruder.

According to recent reporting in the Hartford Courant, and carried by The Day, preliminary numbers provided by the Connecticut State Police showed 169,113 gun-sale authorizations in 2020, up from 126,458 in 2019, a one-third increase. And the trend has continued, with nearly 100,000 authorizations in the first half of 2021. Authorizations must be filled out before the sale or transfer of any firearm in the state.

Indicating many are first-time buyers is the surge in new gun permits, 31,170 issued in the first half of this year, double the 2019 total (in 2020 the pandemic interfered with the gun-permit process).

The jump in gun sales in Connecticut is likewise being seen across many parts of the country. A survey of gun retailers by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, estimates 40% of those customers are first-time gun buyers.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit gun-rights advocacy group, told the Courant that from what it has seen, the biggest growth in new gun ownership is among women.

Study after study has shown more guns in homes leads to more deaths in homes, and not usually of bad guys. One of the most recent and comprehensive studies — “Firearm Ownership and Domestic Versus Nondomestic Homicide in the U.S.” — was published in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” two years ago, earning the publication’s recognition as its “article of the year.”

The study was led by Aaron J. Kivisto, a forensic and clinical psychologist who teaches behavioral sciences at the University of Indianapolis. Researchers looked at gun homicide rates in all states — involving partners, family members, acquaintances, and strangers — from 1990 to 2016.

Not good news − given the recent jump in gun buying − was the finding that as the gun ownership rate rises in a region the incidences of partners or family members being the victims of gun-related deaths due to domestic violence rises slightly faster.

Women are more at risk, accounting for about 3 out of 4 victims of intimate partner gun homicide.

Gun ownership rates ranged from 10% in the Northeast, to nearly 69% in the South. States with the highest firearm ownership had a 65% higher incidence rate of domestic firearm homicide compared to states with lower ownership.

If more guns equaled more safety, the United States should be the safest place on the planet, which of course it is not. The U.S. has about 121 firearms per 100 residents. No other nation comes close. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there were around 38,300 deaths from guns in 2019, of which 62% — 23,900 — were suicides.

Gun-related killings account for three out of four homicides in the United States. Our country has a homicide rate of 5.35 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Mexico has a rate of 19.26 per 100,000, Canada 1.68, and France, the highest western European nation, 1.35.

The point is that buying a gun may well provide a false sense of security. Those exercising this right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution should engage in safe storage and other responsible practices to reduce the risk of anger or despondency resulting in a family tragedy. Unfortunately, many buying firearms for protection will want to keep them armed and ready.

As for one motivation for gun sales, rising crime, the picture is murky. Violent crime was up by about 3% in 2020 over the previous year, but that should be viewed in the context of a long-term downward trend from a peak in the early 1990s. It may be an anomaly.

More alarmingly, there were 25% more murders in 2020 than the prior year. The spike, however, is largely being seen in cities, with Chicago in particular a hotbed of gang gun violence.

Many will dismiss our commentary as needlessly alarmist because they know they will store and use their guns responsibly. We hope you do. But the data suggests too many will not, with tragic results.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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