Myth No. 4: Killing someone is the only reason to buy a handgun.

Advocates of gun control frequently argue that there is no defensible reason for innocent people to own handguns, since the only function of such weapons is to kill other people. Actually, there are a number of legitimate reasons to own a handgun - not the least of which is self defense. Pistol shooting (at inanimate targets) is a sport, and some professionals in the sport have million-dollar contracts.42 And, contrary to antigun propaganda, pistol hunting is also a sport.43 More important, as noted above, firearms are used one million times a year to ward off criminals and most of the time they are not discharged.

"Firearms are used a million times a year to ward off criminals."

Who Owns Guns.

Surveys show that owning a gun is associated with peace of mind. Those who own guns are less fearful of walking in their neighborhoods. They are less apt to be afraid at night in their homes, less likely to have been burglarized or robbed within the last year. They also are more likely to be political conservatives and hunters. The overall pattern of gun ownership has been relatively stable over the past 30 years. The biggest single predictor of whether a householder owns a gun is whether he or she grew up in a household with a gun. This helps to explain the deep-seated cultural conflict between those who find gun ownership wholesome and judicious and those who find it abhorrent and in need of control.44

Guns for Self-Protection.

Higher crime in an area sometimes stimulates more people to buy firearms for protection. Twenty-seven percent of gun owners say they have a gun mainly for protection. Another 62 percent say that protection from crime is at least one of the reasons they own guns.45 Of households with guns, those with no adult male are twice as likely as others to keep a loaded gun. Black gun owners are four times as likely as white gun owners to keep a loaded handgun.46

Criminals vs. Noncriminals.

Survey data show that gun ownership among people who are arrested is moderately higher than in the general population, but the difference is modest for handguns, the type most frequently involved in violence.47 Scattered evidence suggests that during the period of fastest increase in violent crime, from 1964 to 1974, gun possession grew more rapidly among criminals than among law-abiding citizens.48 Perhaps the sturdiest evidence is that the fraction of homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies involving guns increased from 1964 to 1974.

© 1996 NCPA