Guns and Children, Letter in today's NY Times

To the Editor:

Jane E. Brody’s column claiming that people should store their guns locked and unloaded is dangerous advice and will lead to more deaths (“Is Your Child a Split Second from Disaster?”). Her discussion focuses on accidental gun deaths in the home, but 85 percent of the fatality number she misleadingly points to involve homicides. Surely a concern, but locking up guns in law-abiding homes is unrelated to stopping drug gangs from murdering one another.

Despite her claim, adult males with criminal records and histories of alcoholism or drugs are the ones firing the guns that accidentally kill most young children.

Gun locks won’t stop adult criminals from firing their own guns, but they will prevent law-abiding citizens from defending themselves.

John R. Lott Jr.
Binghamton, N.Y.

Brody's original column can be found here.

Brody tries to correct one of the errors that I point to, but she made it worse. The correction added on August 2nd states: "The Personal Health column in Science Times yesterday, about gun safety, included an incorrect statistic from a medical journal on firearm deaths. They make up about 10 percent of deaths caused by injury among children aged 5 to 14, not 10 percent of all deaths in that age group."

You can find the CDC numbers on this issue here. In 2003, the total number of accidental deaths for children aged 5 to 14 was 2,618. The number of children who died from guns was 49. This is less than 2 percent.


Blogger toyfj40 said...

Is there a 'child-safety' factor when secondary (non-defense, ie. hunting/ target/ collectible) weapons in the home are "locked"?

Personal note:
I noticed you placed Binghamton,NY in your Letter.
Are you aquainted with Kevin Wright at SUNY? Tell him 'ABC' from "Rotan" says HI. I will not tell 'stories' on him, as he knows several on me, too.

8/08/2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear toyfj40:

Thanks for the note. If the gun can't be used for self defense, there is no cost to locking it up.

Sorry, I don't know Kevin. What department is he in?

8/08/2006 2:25 PM  
Anonymous James S. said...

Dr. Lott,

Are there any stats on things like the small safes that are intended for keeping a loaded handgun or two in that use a few keypad presses to open? Do you have any opinions/preferences on them?

8/08/2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger saturdaynightspecial said...

"Is there a 'child-safety' factor when secondary (non-defense, ie. hunting/ target/ collectible) weapons in the home are "locked"? "

An owner of an unsecured "non-defense, ie. hunting/ target/ collectible" gun wouldn't leave it loaded around children. And if this were to be it would require the weapon be armed (a round either placed in the chamber and the hammer be placed in the firing position;) this is not an easy feat for children of an age likely to harm themself with a gun. For example semi-automatics require muscle to chamber a round and children may not have the physical ability to do this. And some firearms require know-how to ready them for firing.

Jane Brody is attempting to inform the public about an almost non-existent fact - it's as though children are killing themselves on a daily basis with firearms (the same as they would be killing themselves by setting themselves on fire or by placing a noose around their necks and hanging themselves.) Her attack, on gun owners, is intentionally misplaced; she could have warned irresponsible parents who commit two important deadly mistakes: (1)they leave a loaded chambered firearm accessible to children and (2) neglect to supervise them when they should. It's not gun owners or guns that are the problem, it's irresponsible parents; Jane Brody attempts to blame this irresponsibilty on gun owners when she should blame irresponsible parents like herself because irresponsible parents have a tendency to blame others rather than themselves when their children are harmed. Children, of an age capable of harming themselves with a firearm, need to be watched by parents at all times - and there is no escaping this, and it is the duty of their parents, not gun laws, to ensure their safety.

The people making the laws that restrict or ban firearms are the ones that either don't own them or know the least about them.

Thank s John Lott for defending against this dogma.

8/09/2006 5:16 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Thanks, saturdaynightspecial. I appreciate you appreciating the letter.

8/09/2006 5:19 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear James S.:

The only thing that we have information on is the requirement to lock guns generally. One problem with even the locks that you ask about is that these requirements price poorer people out of the market for buying guns.

8/09/2006 5:21 AM  
Anonymous Nimrod45 said...

I managed to find an open version of the NY Times article at:


It seems that Brody is prone to making factual errors in her column; here is an excerpt correcting her previous weeks column's mistakes:


In last week’s column on drowning deaths, I included several statistics that were inaccurate. Here are the correct ones:

In 2003 (the last year for which statistics are available), drowning was the fourth leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14, after motor vehicle accidents, cancer and birth defects, and the second leading cause of accidental deaths in that age group, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The leading cause of accidental death for children under 5 was suffocation, followed by motor vehicle accidents, and then drowning. In most states in 2003 drowning was the second or third leading cause of accidental death for children 14 and younger. The statistics make clear that motor vehicles caused more deaths among children under 5 than swimming pools did.

Someone who keeps making such easilly checked and corrected mistakes shouldn't be writing "advice" columns to the uninformed...

8/09/2006 6:05 PM  

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