Empirical pacifism?

ResearchBlogging.orgSlogger Charles Mudede points to a new epidemiological study on the effectiveness of carrying a gun for self defense [$-a]. Not only does packing heat fail to help in the event of an armed robbery,

… individuals in possession of a gun were 4.46 (P < 0.05) times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. Among gun assaults where the victim had at least some chance to resist, this adjusted odds ratio increased to 5.45 (P < 0.05).

That’s right, carrying a gun increases the odds that you’ll be shot by an armed assailant. It also increases the odds that you’ll be shot fatally, by about 4.23 times. The authors interviewed 677 gun assault victims in Philadelphia, from between 2003 and 2006, with 648 interviews drawn from the general population in the same period as a control. (If you can’t get to the paper on the journal website, Mudede links to a ScienceDaily article about the result that gives more detail.)

Here’s empirical evidence that returning violence with violence (or having the ability to do so) doesn’t lead to better outcomes — unless, of course, you’re of the school of thought that it’s better to be shot than to lose your wallet or your pride. I doubt this will have much impact on the U.S. political conversation about guns and gun control, because as I’ve noted before, this is not a subject about which people think rationally. Nevertheless, it’s a statistic I intend to remember for the next time I’m asked to defend the ethics of nonresistance.


Branas, C., Richmond, T., Culhane, D., Ten Have, T., & Wiebe, D. (2009). Investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault American Journal of Public Health DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.143099