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Letter to editor icon 3

In my experience, those who assert the benefit of firearms for civilian self-defense rarely calculate the associated risks.

Here is a hypothetical scenario. Firstly, ignore that millions of people never need to use a firearm for defense during their entire lives and just consider the situation that a single person needs to use a firearm defensively at some point. Secondly, assume that a loaded gun is needed for a total of 10 minutes for defensive purposes in one or more episodes during a particular person’s life.

To be useful in that very rare and unpredictable self-defense action, the firearm must be loaded and available and must be carried or kept in easy reach, typically unlocked.

Consider the 60 year life expectancy of adults after age 18. For firearm self-defense to work, during all those 60 years, awake or asleep, that firearm has to be loaded and accessible. During those many years, that protective firearm could be picked up by a child, a person with suicidal intent, or an angry individual in a domestic dispute. It could be stolen during robbery or break-in, discharged by a careless adult or teenager, or used by someone with disturbed paranoid ideation. These risks have been demonstrated repeatedly in research on unsecured firearms.

Do not be confused by isolated stories of firearm self-defense. Rather, we all should worry about the far more common diversion of self-defense firearms to harm innocents intentionally or inadvertently.

John Mott, MD


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