Even academics studying firearms, normally allowed to research their subjects above the political fray, their non-partisan motives given the benefit of the doubt, have become embroiled in the most contentious topic in American culture.

The NRA has called out Harvard University for “snake oil research” and warned its members about the “unscrupulous propagandists grasping at any opportunity to make a case for their preordained agenda” in their “fact sheets.”

But when it comes to the large and complicated question of whether people with guns are actually safer because of that ownership, the research supports the notion that proximity to a lethal weapon creates a greater likelihood of bodily harm and death.

Now, a new meta-analysis of gun research—the first systematic review of its kind—from the University of California, San Francisco, published in Annals of Internal Medicine today, has seemingly put an end to the debate over safety, at least in terms of suicide and homicide. Pooling results from 15 investigations, researchers found that a person with access to a gun is unequivocally less safe in terms of intentional death. Those with the ability to get to a gun are three times as likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to be the victim of a homicide than people without access. 

Previous studies that include population level estimates have pegged the risks as even higher.

Guns are the most popular and effective method of killing—both of oneself and of others. Around 31,000 die by the gun annually and gun deaths make up over half of all completed suicides and over two-thirds of all homicides.

The study found that access to guns had a different effect on men and women. Men were nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than when firearms were not accessible, while women were almost three times more likely to be victims of homicide.  And while men make up over three quarters of suicides and homicides overall, women with firearm access are more than twice as likely to be a victim of homicide than a man with gun access, mainly because of the increased threat of domestic violence.  

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