The idea that guns are a risk factor – for homicide, suicide, accidental death, and injury – was a central idea at the gun violence prevention writers workshop I attended in Hartford earlier this month (see Light Over Heat #15 and Light Over Heat #16). This week I reflect more broadly on the role of risk in our lives.
I am risk-averse in certain ways, but in other ways, I take risks all the time. Notably, drinking alcohol which has many well-documented short-term and long-term health risks. Rather than always trying to avoid risk, perhaps we should, in gun trainer Will Petty’s terms, think of risk as a currency that we get to choose how to spend?
In spending our risk wisely, we need to be thoughtful risk analysts and wise risk managers. In bringing firearms into their homes and lives, gun owners are assuming a certain amount of risk for themselves and their loved ones.
This raises the question: Are gun owners thoughtful risk analysts for their own lives?
In this first “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I take up the question, “Just how normal are guns and gun owners, anyway?”
Drawing on data on negative outcomes with guns as a proportion of the total number of guns owned in the US (400 million), the total number of gun owners (76.56 million), and the total number of gun owning households (51.44 million), I conclude that guns and gun owners are VERY NORMAL.
99.85% of guns, 99.21% of gun owners, and 99.82% of gun owning households will not be involved in any fatalities, non-fatal injuries, or violent victimizations involving guns on any given day. The vast majority of American gun owners do perfectly normal things with their guns.
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In my Sociology of Guns seminar, I typically allocate 2 or 3 of the modules to gun injury, suicide, and homicide. Teaching on-line this semester, I provided the students with an overview of negative outcomes with guns asynchronously (via a narrated PowerPoint turned into a YouTube video) so we would have more time in our on-line (Zoom) synchronous class session to delve into the issues more deeply.