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Do More Guns Make People Safer? Research Says No

Shayna Zerbe, right, instructs Garret Sloan on how to fire a fully automatic ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Shayna Zerbe, right, instructs Garret Sloan on how to fire a fully automatic machine gun in 2014 at Machine Guns Vegas. Nevada's gun laws are lax compared to other states, and gun tourism is nearly as ubiquitous in Las Vegas as gambling and stage shows.

Do More Guns Make People Safer? Research Says No


Melinda Wenner Moyer, science reporter


Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had 23 firearms in his hotel room and he bought 33 guns in the past year, according to law enforcement officials.

Most Americans who own guns do not commit mass shootings. Gun advocates often claim that gun owners make the country safer, because responsible gun owners can stop criminals from committing gun violence. But, science reporter Melinda Wenner Moyer looked into what decades of gun research has shown about gun violence and found the opposite is true: more guns do not make people safer.

Studies have shown firearm assaults are more likely in states with more guns. People with access to firearms at home are nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who do not have access to guns. And, guns at home are four times more likely to cause an accidental shooting than be used for self-defense. Moyer also found calling for help is just as effective as using a gun in preventing injury.

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The National Rifle Association points to a dramatic drop in violent crime rates since the 1990s, at the same time as Americans bought 170 million new guns.

"But that is misleading," Moyer wrote in the October issue of Scientific American. "What has increased is the number of people who own multiple guns—the actual number of people and households who own them has substantially dropped."

Moyer joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more about the scientific consensus around gun ownership and why so many people nonetheless believe guns make them safer.

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