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Flaws in study of firearm possession and risk for assault

American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 06/2010; 100(6):967-8; author reply 968-9. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.187476
Source: PubMed

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    • "The results of this study have, however, been criticized on statistical grounds and it is currently unclear whether β 2 /β 1 is indeed greater than one [13] [14]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Following recent shootings in the USA, a debate has erupted, one side favoring stricter gun control, the other promoting protection through more weapons. We provide a scientific foundation to inform this debate, based on mathematical, epidemiological models that quantify the dependence of firearm-related death rates of people on gun policies. We assume a shooter attacking a single individual or a crowd. Two strategies can minimize deaths in the model, depending on parameters: either a ban of private firearms possession, or a policy allowing the general population to carry guns. In particular, the outcome depends on the fraction of offenders that illegally possess a gun, on the degree of protection provided by gun ownership, and on the fraction of the population who take up their right to own a gun and carry it with them when attacked, parameters that can be estimated from statistical data. With the measured parameters, the model suggests that if the gun law is enforced at a level similar to that in the United Kingdom, gun-related deaths are minimized if private possession of firearms is banned. If such a policy is not practical or possible due to constitutional or cultural constraints, the model and parameter estimation indicate that a partial reduction in firearm availability can lead to a reduction in gun-induced death rates, even if they are not minimized. Most importantly, our analysis identifies the crucial parameters that determine which policy reduces the death rates, providing guidance for future statistical studies that will be necessary for more refined quantitative predictions.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2013
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    ABSTRACT: In the USA, the relationship between the legal availability of guns and the firearm-related homicide rate has been debated. It has been argued that unrestricted gun availability promotes the occurrence of firearm-induced homicides. It has also been pointed out that gun possession can protect potential victims when attacked. This paper provides a first mathematical analysis of this tradeoff, with the goal to steer the debate towards arguing about assumptions, statistics, and scientific methods. The model is based on a set of clearly defined assumptions, which are supported by available statistical data, and is formulated axiomatically such that results do not depend on arbitrary mathematical expressions. According to this framework, two alternative scenarios can minimize the gun-related homicide rate: a ban of private firearms possession, or a policy allowing the general population to carry guns. Importantly, the model identifies the crucial parameters that determine which policy minimizes the death rate, and thus serves as a guide for the design of future epidemiological studies. The parameters that need to be measured include the fraction of offenders that illegally possess a gun, the degree of protection provided by gun ownership, and the fraction of the population who take up their right to own a gun and carry it when attacked. Limited data available in the literature were used to demonstrate how the model can be parameterized, and this preliminary analysis suggests that a ban of private firearm possession, or possibly a partial reduction in gun availability, might lower the rate of firearm-induced homicides. This, however, should not be seen as a policy recommendation, due to the limited data available to inform and parameterize the model. However, the model clearly defines what needs to be measured, and provides a basis for a scientific discussion about assumptions and data.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2013 · PLoS ONE