There has been a wave of petty break-ins in our neighborhood. It unnerved me -- we live in a little leafy suburb, where neighbors left doors unlocked as recently as a year ago. But while the thought of a strung-out 20-something and his girl boosting electronics and fleeing in a stolen Honda is not my idea of suburban bliss, what chilled me was the response from our Homeowners' Association. Our benevolent leader, in all his wisdom, forwarded us advice on keeping our homes safe. None of it was useful, but he could never be blamed for excessive usefulness. And then there was this little nugget, apparently sent in by an anonymous neighbor, and cheerfully forwarded by our association president, with his own imprimatur:
It is not just that the thought of my Rush-Limbaugh-blasting, Santorum voting, immigrant-hating neighbor to one side stalking the woods between our houses with a firearm and his friend Jim Beam. And not just the thought of the three teenage boys next door who are left to supervise their little sister (who happens to be in my daughter's class) in an empty house, now armed and dangerous as well as adolescently brash. It is not the unbelievable tone-deafness of this advice given the national nightmare of Trayvon Martin's death at the hands of a wannabe guardian of the peace. It is that this advice is wrong.
It took my husband a very short time to dig up multiple published studies on the subject*, all of which boil down to the idea that guns in the home are much more likely to harm the inhabitants of that home and other innocents than they are to be used to effectively thwart an attack. And while the anonymous counselor does suggest arms training, I would bet quite a bit that most people in our subdivision would simply buy the gun and figure they'd use it if they had to, or train the dad, who is never home, and assume that would suffice.
I would rather lose a laptop and antiquated iPod to a junkie in a green Honda, then my life or that of my neighbors to a well-meaning citizen "standing his ground" too close to my house. Which, since I don't think my neighbors' minds won't be changed by me, might be yet another good reason to move...
* Dahlberg LL, Ikeda RM, Kresnow M-j. 2004. Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 160: 929-36. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full
Hemenway D. 2011. Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 5: 502-11. http://ajl.sagepub.com/content/5/6/502
Wiebe DJ. 2003. Homicide and suicide risks associated with firearms in the home: a national case-control study. Ann Emerg Med 41: 771-82. http://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(03)00256-7/abstract