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Packing heat gets you shot, say profs

Likelihood of cold dead fingers rises with gun ownership

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Medical researchers in Philadelphia have conducted a study which indicates - according to their interpretation - that carrying a gun causes people to get shot more often. "People should rethink their possession of guns," say the medics.

“This study helps resolve the long-standing debate about whether guns are protective or perilous,” says University of Pennsylvania epidemiology prof Charles Branas. The Penn announcement is headlined "Gun Possession [is] of questionable value in an Assault", so it's pretty clear which way he's leaning.

The Penn researchers carried out their study by randomly selecting 677 people in Philadelphia who had been shot in "assaults". Apparently five people sustain gunshot wounds every day in the City of Brotherly Love, so there were plenty to choose from.

According to the profs, six per cent of the shooting victims were packing heat when they got plugged. They compared that to a control sample of Philadelphians who had not been shot, and concluded that "people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun".

The research techniques used were the same as those previously used "to establish links between such things as smoking and lung cancer or drinking and car crashes". The message is: you smoke, you'll get cancer; you drive drunk, you'll crash your car; carry a gun, you'll get shot.

There didn't seem to be any account taken of the fact that people with good reason to fear being shot - for instance drug dealers, secret agents etc - would be more likely to tool up than those with no such concerns.

The profs' reasoning, however, would seem to be that if someone sticks you up in the street and you haven't got a gun, you'll just hand over your valuables and so escape with a whole skin. If you've got a gat, however, you might try to draw it and so get shot. Tactically, of course, it might be wiser to first hand over your wallet and then craftily backshoot the robber as he departed, but no matter.

"On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault," conclude the study authors. "Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures."

Subscribers to the American Journal of Public Health can read the research here. ®

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