Living with a gun owner significantly increases your risk of getting killed

A new study suggests that two-thirds of these victims are women.

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Public Health

It’s been proven, for decades, that people who live in homes with firearms are at higher risk for suicide or homicide. But the details are far starker than we previously imagined. According to a new study, adults who live with gun owners are actually twice as likely to get killed.

The new study, which was published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed gun purchasing and death records for 17.6 million homes in California between 2004 and 2016. What researchers found was that not only were people who lived with gun owners twice as likely to die by homicide, two-thirds of the individuals facing those risks were women.

Many gun owners say that they need guns to “protect their families,” but what actually happens with those guns tells another story. According to the study, 36.9% of those killed by firearms in this study were killed by a spouse or a domestic partner. Eighty-four percent of those individuals were women.

Importantly, only 16% of those killed were killed by strangers, which the authors noted is about the same percentage of people killed by strangers who do not live with gun owners. In other words, if you live with a partner who owns a gun, you are more likely to be killed by your partner than by a stranger invading your home.

This study confirms what previous studies have suggested — that gun ownership increases rates of homicide in the home — and it also sheds light on who the victims and perpetrators are likely to be. Not only that, but no study of this size has ever been done on the connection between violence in the home and gun ownership.

“Tackling the epidemic of firearm injury and death in the United States will require consistent focus and multiple levels of intervention,” wrote Christine Laine, the editor of Annals of Internal Medicine, and Sue Bornstein, chair-elect of the American College of Physicians’ (ACP) Board of Regents, in an editorial accompanying the study.

Laine and Bornstein suggest that a comprehensive approach to protecting citizens from firearms violence will require a combination of laws that protect those at risk and enforce firearms restrictions and the establishment of social programs that mitigate risk factors. Let’s hope that we realize sooner rather than later that gun violence isn’t just a personal issue — it’s a public health crisis, and treat it accordingly