About Us| Issues & Campaigns| Media| Get Involved| New to the Issue?| Donate

June 21, 2010

Pure Fantasy

For years, studies have shown that a gun in the home is far more likely to kill or injure a family member or loved one than an intruder. That data, however, has not deterred some Americans from arming up and fantasizing about the chance to take out a “bad guy.” At the 2005 National Rifle Association (NRA) convention, NRA Board Member Ted Nugent famously proclaimed, “I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want ‘em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot ‘em.” While that rhetoric might provide good material for a movie (think “Dirty Harry” or “Death Wish”), the reality of hyper-macho gun ownership is often far different in practice.

On June 15, Tyler Smith and Tyler Baker (both age 26) were hanging out together at a friend’s house in Portland, Oregon. The pair had been drinking earlier that night when Smith decided to demonstrate to Baker how he would use his handgun if a criminal attempted to break into his home. During this demonstration, Smith discharged his loaded .380 caliber handgun into Baker’s chest, killing him. Smith claimed it was an accident and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. In an affidavit to the police, he admitted to having at least four drinks that evening.

Both Smith and Baker had concealed handgun permits. The one-time, three-hour training course required to obtain a permit in Oregon, however, was not sufficient to prevent the June 15th tragedy (no separate training is required to simply purchase or own a handgun in Oregon). Smith apparently felt he could mix guns and alcohol without adverse consequences.

Studies show that guns kept in the home are 22 times more likely to be used in unintentional shootings, murders, assaults, and suicide attempts than in any act of self-defense. A 12-month study done in Memphis and an 18-month study in Seattle and Galveston found a total of 626 shootings that occurred in or around residences. Only 13 of them were deemed legally justifiable.

For all the fantasies that Ted Nugent and other pro-gun activists have about “taking out bad guys” and being heroes, the reality is that such scenarios are highly unlikely to happen. High-profile, testosterone-fueled grandiosity might even serve to exacerbate the reckless behavior of some gun owners, increasing the inherent risk of keeping a gun in the home. Finally, the menial training requirements that most states have instituted for gun owners and gun-toters offer little hope of crowding out the gun lobby’s “Shoot First” message.