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Does a Gun Make Your Home Safer?

Written by | Updated June 16, 2020
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Last Updated: 1 month ago
Record-breaking gun purchases are coinciding with more home-confined time during the coronavirus outbreak. Make sure any weapons at home are locked away beyond the reach of curious children's hands.

The debate surrounding the right to own a gun in the United States is a controversial one, but answering the question about whether having a gun in the house will make you and your family safer is pretty straightforward. Our best bet is to look at the statistics surrounding gun ownership vs. gun violence and draw conclusions based on the research. 

Do guns make us safer?

A 2018 poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found 58% of Americans agree with the statement “gun ownership does more to increase safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.”1 And gun owners seem to believe that idea at a higher rate. Pew Research Center found 65% of men and 71% of women gun owners say the primary reason they carry is for protection.2 While public opinion seems to support the idea that having guns makes us feel safer, science has something different to say about whether guns actually make us safer.

Before diving into the statistics about having a gun in the home, it’s important to point out that until recently, unbiased research about gun violence was hard to come by. A 1996 law called the Dickey Amendment restricted how government funding could be used for research on gun violence. For several decades, many of the privately funded studies on using guns for self-defense were either sponsored by the National Rifle Association or conversely, organizations dedicated to gun control. 

Today, however, there is a growing body of well-established research that clearly points toward one conclusion. Whether we carry a concealed firearm for self-defense or use one for recreational sports like hunting, guns in the home do not make us safer.

Statistics about Having Guns at Home

Statistically, having a gun in your home is more dangerous for you and your family, especially if you have young children or teens. A 2014 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded having a firearm in the home, even when it’s properly stored, doubles your risk of becoming a victim of homicide and triples the risk of suicide.3

Because the majority of gun owners do not secure their weapons, children are especially at risk of gun violence in their homes. A 2015 study in the Journal of Urban Health estimated as many as 4.6 million children in America live in homes with unsecured guns.4 Experts agree that properly securing and storing guns can be an effective way to address incidents of suicide, mass shootings, and unintentional shootings among children and teenagers. Parents who are gun owners should take the extra precaution of researching the best gun safes or car gun safes to lower the risk of gun violence for their children and prevent their firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

More Guns = More Gun Violence

The statistics on gun violence also apply on a broader scale. The more firearms there are in a country (whether for self-defense, concealed carry, or recreational use), the higher the incidence of gun violence. Even after controlling for other factors like income, crime levels, and demographics, many studies over the last decade confirm this conclusion.

Americans are about 5% of the world’s population but have 42% of the world’s privately owned firearms.5 A fact which David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, believes contributes to the higher rates of gun-related homicide in America compared with other industrialized nations. “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community lead to more homicide.”6

The prevalence of guns in the community means incidents like robbery and other crimes are more likely to carry the risk of gun violence. In states that have “stand your ground” laws, Rand Corporation found even minor disagreements or physical altercations carried a greater risk of turning into violent crime. In short, gun ownership does not increase safety, and the prevalence of guns directly correlates with significantly greater risk of gun-related homicides and suicides.

While the facts surrounding the safety of having a gun in the home are clear, the choice to own a gun is more complicated for many homeowners. Be aware that the safest way to protect your home is to focus on buying the best home security system, and leave the firearms to law enforcement. If you do own guns, you can reduce the risk of unintentional shootings and other types of gun violence by storing your firearm in a gun safe or home safe.

Written by Kaz Weida

Kaz is a journalist who covers home security, parenting, and community and child safety. Her work and product testing in the security and safety field spans the past four years. You can find Kaz in HuffPost, SheKnows, Lifehack, and much more. Her degree in education and her background as a teacher and a parent make her uniquely suited to offer practical advice on creating safe environments for your family. Learn more

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  • B650

    I think this is a good way to look at it:

    The % a burger will invade your home when you are there and who has intent to harm or kill you rather than just run away and you are aware of him and you have access to a gun and mental clarity to use it correctly (e.g. not too tired etc) versus all the risks associated with having a gun in the house.

    Also know that if your gun is secure, you stand a lower chance of being able to use it in that niche situation since it’s probably locked up. bottom line is its like playing the a slot machine. You win some but you lose more.

    The up-side to strong gun resultation or even a ban is that any burger would also be far less likely to even have a gun in the first place.

    Also, take some comfort in that most people that break in your home just want a low risk quick cash out and nothing to do with you. If someone wants to break in and rape or kill your family, you are gonna be in trouble no matter what because they are gonna scope it out first and move it with a lot more consideration and knowledge. You a gun may not even make a difference vs element of surprise and they will surely have a loaded weapon in the first place. A “fighting chance” is an overstatement.

    • David Enderson

      obviously you have no experience in violent encounters or firearms. hopefully you never will. unfortunately most of us have and a fighting chance is all you pray for when it happens.

  • B650

    Do some research and see if longer jail sentence reduce crime then come back and try again.

    • cargosquid

      I’ve done the research.
      It does.
      THOSE criminals do not try again. And by long sentences…. we’re talking at least 20 years. And Project EXILE in Richmond, VA worked wonderfully.

      Most criminals are between the ages of 16 and 35. Keep them in jail until they are past that age and you see recidivism drop.

  • B650

    The old knife vs gun! Oh I love this one.

    good old republican freedom campfire stories! Tell me more!

    You know who kept a weapon around as backup? My dad’s friend. You know who found it? By little brother, and he brought it to school and tired to shoot a kid.

    That’s a true story bro. You may be fine owning a gun you don’t get to set the bar.

    • Kenneth Dunkin

      Knife vs Gun? Yeah, that’s right. I’ll tell you more!!! A few years before, I was stabbed in the leg with a filet knife and robbed…all for three dollars. That’s why I now own a gun, Mr. Liberal, so it is definitely is no republican campfire story. It’s plain to see your just an ax grinding, hating democrat. Your incident differs from mine, so you live your life and beliefs, and I’ll live mine, thank you so much. You also, do not set the bar by shoving your crap down my throat. Oh, and I am fine owning a gun, and I never stated that I was setting the bar, smart azz, just my personal belief!!! Now, go harass someone else. There’s no talking to idiot’s like you! You want to run your mouth, put up a real pic…B650!

  • SK

    You cannot just go online and buy a gun. You still have to go through a background check. This weekend someone used a car to plow through a bunch of Germans attending some festival. I also saw where France has 120 knife attacks a day. I’ll keep my firearms.

  • SK

    There is no such thing as gun violence. How about people violence? Antifa comes to mind.

  • David Enderson

    Gun Effectiveness- Guns do not guarantee your safety- Guns do guarantee your ability to fight back !
    Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year, or 6,849 every day. Most often, the gun is never fired, and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed. Every year, 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented using firearms.Aug 23, 2019

  • David Enderson

    so how does one explain mass killings,murder and violence for millions of years before the gun was ever invented ? dont go off, its a real question

  • SeeThroughYou

    80-90% of all firearm homicide victims have a criminal arrest record and are killed by someone almost exactly like themselves.(4-7% of gun owners have a criminal arrest record)

    70% of all firearms suicide victims have a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse but the US has a lower suicide rate than 43 other countries most with strict gun control laws.(less than 10% of gun owners have substance abuse issues)

    Every single datapoint in this article only applies to jailbirds and drug/alcohol addicts not the bulk of the 100 million gun owning Americans who safely use guns on a regular basis. Less than 1% of gun owners will ever commit a crime with a gun. Less than 1% of gun owners will engage in self-harm with a gun. Less than 1% will ever have a fatality accident in their households.

    Guns are used to thwart violent criminals 1.5 million times per year(minimum) usually by brandishing and scaring the violent perpetrator away without firing a single bullet. 200,000 sexual assaults are prevented each year primarily by armed women.

  • cargosquid

    “her background as a teacher and a parent make her uniquely suited to offer practical advice on creating safe environments for your family.”

    And nothing in the article or her bio shows that she has the slightest clue about gun safety, the problems with the “gun studies,” or the history of the topic.

    She merely parrots the gun control activists. Hemenway is a hack.
    And he trots out the false premise of “industrialized nations” while ignoring the fact that there are MANY “industrialized nations” with much greater gun crime.

    She doesn’t use the latest data. Her sources estimate that US has 270 million privately owned guns.
    Problem: That estimate was low in the 90s. Current estimates using ATF data shows that we have purchased 423 MILLION firearms since 1986. Thus, none of the guns purchased prior to that are counted. We probably have over 600 million privately owned firearms.

    The irony in her article: “Before diving into the statistics about having a gun in the home, it’s important to point out that until recently, unbiased research about gun violence was hard to come by.”

    “In states that have “stand your ground” laws, Rand Corporation found even minor disagreements or physical altercations carried a greater risk of turning into violent crime.”
    Physical altercations ARE violent crime.
    Stand your ground laws increase JUSTIFIED homicides. Weird how all that increased homicide is not showing up in the overall DROPPING rate.

    “In short, gun ownership does not increase safety, and the prevalence of guns directly correlates with significantly greater risk of gun-related homicides and suicides.”
    And then she uses some of the MOST biased and quotes Hemenway. NOTHING from the pro-rights side.

    “and leave the firearms to law enforcement.”
    When seconds matter, cops are only minutes away.
    No cop has a duty to protect you.
    Defund the police! Sound familiar?
    Cops, on per capita basis, when shooting at perps, have a HIGHER rate of hitting bystanders than non police.

    “prevalence of guns directly correlates with significantly greater risk of gun-related homicides and suicides.”
    See the gun control areas: fewer guns, more gun crime.
    See Mexico. See Baltimore. See Chicago.

    Suicide rates are not affected by access to guns. Culture drives crime and suicide.

    And here’s the most important part: She ignores the fact that we have the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

    • Gary Ritzman

      Gun free zones are very dangerous.

  • cargosquid

    Start them EARLY. If they want to see the guns, drop what you are doing and show them. Make the BORED with the guns. Take them shooting. Have them clean the guns or help.

    The Four Rules: Paramount.

    Add the Fifth rule. DO NOT try to catch a mishandled and dropped gun. The fingers automatically end up in the trigger guard and there is a good chance that the pistol is facing in an unsafe direction.

  • cargosquid

    Um….Andy is taking YOUR position.

  • cargosquid

    Because that idea leads to abuse of rights.

    ANYBODY can become a criminal.

    We have the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

  • OHJonesy

    Firstly, the “Dickey Amendment” did not restrict “… how government funding could be used for research on gun violence”, that’s a common myth told by the anti-Second Amendment crowd. What it did, was stop the CDC from using taxpayer money to fund and promote anti-gun policies. Government-backed studies of gun violence continued unabated, by organizations far more qualified than the CDC; organizations like the FBI, the ATF, the DoJ, and scores of other law-enforcement agencies.

    Secondly, this author is engaging is biased hyperbole herself, by claiming that “More Guns = More Gun Violence”, another myth easily debunked, had she bothered with research. Let’s look at the real data;

    Many are unaware that since the high point of gun violence (including gun homicide) around 1993, three interesting things have happened:

    (1) The number of guns in America have nearly tripled, from 170 million then, to an estimated 500 million today. Over 40 million were sold in the final two years of Obama’s term alone. That’s over 50,000 new guns sold every day!

    (2) The number of Concealed Carry license holders grew from nearly none, to over 18 million today. That does not include the people in 17 “Constitutional Carry” states that can carry concealed without a permit.

    (3) The violent crime rate in America, including gun homicide, has fallen by about 50%. Yes, by HALF!

    There you have it – the number of “guns per-capita” have skyrocketed, while gun violence is at its lowest levels since the 1960’s. Seems this author got it backwards.

    If we want to reduce gun homicide even further, gun laws will not help. Cleaning up our violent inner-cities of the drug cartels and gangs waging turf wars is the answer, not more gun laws that criminals already ignore.

    (removed url links to keep from being marked as “spam”)

  • OHJonesy

    OK, I “searched it up”, as you said, and I found that’s flat-out wrong. Annual gun deaths in America are far less than “100,000 a year”, where did you come up with that number?

    Let’s look at the REAL numbers.

    There are approximately 32,000 deaths a year in the US from gunshots, and that number has been steadily falling over the past 25 years.

    Of these —

    65% are suicides, or about 20,800
    2% are accidental shootings, or about 640
    6% are justifiable (police or civilian), or about 1,250
    27% are the real homicides, or about 9,310

    According to the FBI, at least 75% of those 9,310 homicides are street gang- and/or drug-war related. They’re known criminals shooting other known criminals, usually in the violent inner-cities, usually over drug turf. That’s 6,980.

    Doing the math, we can see now that the remaining 2,330 homicides are the non-gang related, non-drug related gun homicides, in a country of 330 million.

    Your chances of being murdered with a gun, if you are not running with inner-city street gangs or participating in the illegal drug trade, are less than 0.000008.

    The 2011 FBI National Gang Threat Assessment tells us, “Some jurisdictions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Texas report that gangs are responsible for at least 90 percent of crime.”

    On the other side of that coin, several studies have shown law-abiding citizens use guns a minimum of 100,000 times a year in lawful self-defense, most often without ever firing a shot.

    The fact is, you’ve never been more safe from violent crime in America than you are today, regardless of what the liberal-biased media wants you to believe. If you want to further reduce “gun violence”, targeting law-abiding citizens will not work.

    Making good people defenseless will never make bad people harmless.

  • saltysailor

    You are sadly mistaken.

    • Gary Ritzman

      Every time I legally buy a gun from a legal gun seller, I must complete a government form that is submitted to authorities who do a background check. I can pick up my purchases 19 or 20 days later.
      To be clear only buy guns and ammunition from legal businesses.

      • saltysailor


  • David Enderson

    how long have you been a communist ?

  • Gary Ritzman

    Feeling safe, okay. But knowing how use and maintain their guns is most important.

  • Michael Goldman

    If you are not afraid to use it. The way the animals are running around out of control and the police are following orders to stand down and put our country in tremendous danger, everyone should be armed. Count on the Police to save you? Only if you are an ignorant fool.