Op-Ed Claims You Shouldn't Have Handguns. Here's Why It's Wrong

Anti-gun zealots don’t understand math all that well. I say that as someone who freely admits that math is my weak point, but I do understand numbers. I can look at the numbers and compare them to others.


No, that’s not rocket science. But it seems to be far beyond the understanding of some.

For example, we have people who think a recent study proves you shouldn’t own a handgun.

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.

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.


Oh, the writer may think this settles the discussion and that you shouldn’t have to argue it anymore, but he’s going to have to.

You see, as horrific as child deaths are, all such data needs to be compared to the overall good that guns do.

For example, the CDC found that guns were used 2.4 million times per year in a defensive capacity. Far, far more often than these tragic incidents. Further, we know that the weapon used in the vast majority of these defensive gun uses was a handgun. That’s because it’s light, portable, and can be concealed in accordance with state and local laws. Because of this, it can be there when you need it.

Further, let’s think about the sheer number of handguns in this country. Millions upon millions of handguns are in private citizens’ hands right now. That means only a tiny fraction have resulted in this kind of incident. If we do the math–again, not my strong suit, but bear with me-something seems off. The CNN report says the study claims five million kids live in households with a handgun. If 0.63 per 100,000 kids are shot, that’s a total of 31.5 kids per year.

Now, I agree that even one is one too many, but let’s keep in mind a few things.

For one, there’s that whole 2.4 million defensive gun uses each year. While that statistic doesn’t cover the number of people protected during a defensive gun use, it’s not hard to extrapolate that far, far more children are likely saved by handguns than killed by accident.


For another, we know nothing about the environment in which these kids accidentally shoot themselves. Were these responsible gun owners or were they like far too many people who think they know what they need to know and don’t?

In other words, while the study has a place in our discourse, it still provides far too little information for us to determine anything useful. Unless, of course, you like the op-ed author and believe that guns are a scourge and need to be purged from the American landscape. After all, that’s what this is really about.

A study shows us that people are too careless with guns–something we should all agree is a problem–and takes it in the direction of “You don’t need a handgun! If you have one, you’re a monster and should be ashamed of yourself!

However, if you want to be calm about it and think for a moment, the danger is overstated, and the good that handguns do outweigh any harm.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member