THE NEJM EDITOR AFTER THE "3 TIMES" HOMICIDE STUDY

2/16/99

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In an editorial by NEJM editor Jerome Kassirer in the Oct, '93 issue of the NEJM, after citing the '92 suicide study and '93 homicide study by Kellerman and associates, he said,

If we know that keeping handguns around the house is so dangerous, why do millions of people continue to do so?... Yet, we actually know little about the collective efficacy of guns in the home in warding off attacks.  Estimates of the number of times per year that guns protect citizens...vary widely, but neither statistics kept by law-enforcement agencies nor any existing polls of citizens have provided accurate data.....The study by Kellermann and his colleagues found no protective benefit of gun ownership in the home even in the homicide cases that followed forced entry.

Kassirer went on to call for passage of the Brady Bill and the '94 assault weapons ban and to say that "the facts speak for themselves, as the two studies by Kellermann and his colleagues (5,6) illustrate."  He also called for more federal funding of the same kind of research.

Note that Kassirer implied that "we know" that keeping handguns around the house is "so" dangerous although it is actually known only by people like him who are quick to believe only what they want to believe, based on meaningless evidence.  Being a doctor, he should know that correlation does not equal cause.  Note, too, that he and his fellow advocates may not know much about the efficacy of guns in the home for warding off attacks, but it could only be because of keeping their collective head in the sand.  Kleck's study on defensive gun uses published six months earlier (& discussed at this site) had proved that, even if the survey error were huge, the frequency of defensive gun uses easily exceeds one million per year.

The statement about Kellermann finding no protective benefit of guns in the home is a sign of extreme stupidity or dishonesty.  The researchers were only examining households in which people had been killed and had, by definition, lost in their encounters with assailants.  Looking in those homes would naturally not be demonstrative of the use of guns for protection.  Existence of any number of failures tells absolutely nothing about the numbers of homes in which guns are used successfully.

Kassirer continued:

Gun-control advocates should not be unrealistic, however.  Rather than set their sights next on a total ban on gun possession, they might try first to craft proposals that would receive wide public support.  They could espouse new design standards for firearms,....They could support the registration of firearms and the licensing of all gun owners to make it easier for police to trace stolen weapons. ....If such laws were implemented we could assess their efficacy, if we still found them wanting we would be justified in supporting even more stringent restrictions.

After letters of criticism that appeared in the later Feb '94 issue, Kassirer would deny that he called for a total ban on gun possession which, strictly speaking, he did not do.  He just strongly suggested it.  Since no laws could totally solve all problems the ignorant associate with guns, further, more stringent restrictions would surely follow.