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There is a common saying in the United States that "it's better to own a gun and not use it, than need a gun and not have it." Unwilling to accept such commonplaces in my decisions regarding security, I would like to understand the risks involved in purchasing a handgun for personal protection. My overarching concern is to understand if handgun ownership will better, or worsen, my and my family & friend's probability of death or injury.

Most attempts at rational risk analysis of handgun ownership tend to be referenced in polemics, making it very difficult for an uninterested party to derive quantifiable answers. For example, this loooong essay hosted by ESR does contain much data, but in undigestable framing and of questionable validity.

Accordingly, I have attempted to generate a set of quantifiable questions to ascertain whether handgun ownership results in a positive or negative outcome for my community. These questions are possibly ill-worded or incomplete, with better alternatives available; this question and the corresponding answers may be most beneficial as a community wiki.

  1. What is the life expectancy of a handgun owner versus non-owner?
  2. What is the probability that the handgun will be used in a crime or accident, versus in self-defense?
  3. What is the probability of an undesired (eg all violence not commissioned by the owner of the gun) injury or death of the owner or someone else?
  4. What is the probability that a handgun owner will be charged with a crime, versus non-owner?
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closed as not a real question by Oddthinking Apr 20 '12 at 0:16

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

@Noel, please note where you live, as different countries (or maybe even states) have different gun ownership and control laws which strongly influences the result. –  Ilya Melamed Apr 16 '12 at 23:05
I like this question since it likely covers most of the notable claims on either side of the debate about whether gun ownership is good or not. We could insist that specific claims from either side of the debate should be quoted, but that would fragment the question and possibly make the answers less useful. The question could be improved by quoting some further relevant discussions to show that it is a good summary of the key issues, but I still like the way they are framed. –  matt_black Apr 16 '12 at 23:06
"What is the life expectancy of a handgun owner versus non-owner?" Poor question. If high-risk individuals (e.g. police-officers, security guards, violent gang-members) are more likely to own a gun, then their higher chance of being violently killed will be correlated with gun ownership, not the cause. This doesn't help you decide whether to own a gun. –  Oddthinking Apr 17 '12 at 1:07
"What is the probability that the handgun will be used in a crime or accident, versus in self-defense?" Poor question. If violent criminals purchase a gun in order to commit crimes, then the higher chance of their gun being used in a crime will be correlated with gun ownership, not the cause. This doesn't help you decide whether to own a gun (assuming you are not a violent criminal). –  Oddthinking Apr 17 '12 at 1:09
I understand the question a little like this: If you own a gun you might accidentally shoot a family member which comes home late/drunk because you take him/her for an intruder. Or you might be overconfident in the case of a real break in: Instead of barricading yourself and your family and only call the police while letting them steal your TV, you might attack and get you and your family members killed or injured. However: If you don't have one you can't defend yourself and might be robbed just because people know about it. It should be possible to answer that using statistics. (@Oddthinking) –  Martin Scharrer Apr 17 '12 at 10:58

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