There’s a new study out today on gun ownership in America. That in and of itself is newsworthy, as the NRA has done everything in its power to stifle research into firearms and gun violence, but this survey in particular lends weight to something that seems like a very clear truth to me: You do not need a handgun.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed gun ownership data from the past 41 years and found the portion of families with young children who own guns has decreased, from 50 to 45 percent for white families. (Per CNN, the study’s authors didn’t have enough data to draw reliable conclusions for black families.) But not all guns are created equal. The study found that while overall ownership among families with young kids decreased, 49 percent of those guns were handguns in 1976. But in 2016, 72 percent of them were handguns.
According to CNN, this is what happened:
This increase was associated with a doubling of child deaths from firearms over the past decade, partially explaining it, according to the study.
Child deaths from firearms peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s and were on the decline until 2001, the study says. The rates have started to increase again, nearly doubling over the past decade from 0.36 per 100,000 children ages 1 to 4 to 0.63 per 100,000.
This is just one piece of evidence to make a case that we really should not have to argue anymore. You do not need to own a handgun. If you own one and you have a small child, that child is at risk. “But I lock up my guns, the problem is irresponsible gun owners,” people will cry. No. If you own a handgun there is a chance it will kill your child. The child will make a mistake or you will make a mistake, and your child will be dead. A handgun is small; the geometry of where the barrel is pointing when it goes off is particularly deadly compared to a more cumbersome firearm. Children do not understand this. Adults, much of the time, do not understand this.
Handguns exist for one reason: to kill human beings. People make the argument that a gun is a tool all the time. Yes. Guns are tools. Their function is death. A handgun is a tool for killing people. Your ranch shotgun or hunting rifle? You can reasonably argue those have a purpose that is not killing people. (They’re meant for killing things that aren’t people). An AR-15 or other military-style rifle is also built for killing people, but that’s an argument for another day. You don’t hunt with a handgun. I’m sure people do it, I’ve been at the range and shot one of those big Colt Pythons that someone sticks a scope on or whatever, but you’re an asshole and an idiot if you do that.
But shooting handguns is fun, you might say! Yes, it is fun. But it is not so fun that it is worth thousands of preventable deaths.
Do you need a handgun for self-defense? No, you do not. If you are so desperately afraid and insecure that you must keep a firearm in your home, get a shotgun, which is easier to secure, easier to use, and far less likely to penetrate the walls of your house. It’s also less likely to result in your child’s accidental death. A large, heavy shotgun is much more difficult for a toddler to mess with than a small, light handgun, logic the study’s findings appear to support.
Here is what happens when you try to shoot a handgun in self-defense: There is a good chance you will miss, or you will hit something you didn’t mean to hit. Most likely what happens is that the other person who has a gun shoots you first, or takes your gun and shoots you with it, or you manage to shoot them but they shoot you back. In 2009, a study found that people in possession of a gun were 4.46 times more likely to be shot in an assault than people who didn’t have a gun. The cops, who are trained to shoot handguns at people, shoot the wrong people all the time. You are not going to stop a crime. If you do stop a crime, you will be an extreme outlier to a trend that overwhelmingly results in the death of innocents.
Why expose yourself to that? Why bring that into the equation? If you’re honest with yourself, it’s because handguns make you feel powerful. I get it, I really do. You can kill anything with a handgun, but mostly you can kill people. You can conceal it in your waistband or your pocket or your jacket and walk around with the power to kill anyone you meet almost instantly. This makes you feel strong and in control. But it’s a lie. When people are shooting weapons at one another, no one is in control. You don’t need to tell yourself this lie anymore. You don’t need a handgun.