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» Letter to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 28, 1997 «


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The Right to Keep and
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Dear Editor:

The article Odds Don't Favor Gun Owners, Doctor States in the Post Gazette of May 3, 1997, could have been greatly improved if the Post Gazette had included some background information on the speaker and his studies. This research would have shown that studies on firearms in the home done by Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann, director of the Center for Injury Control at Emory University in Atlanta, are so flawed as to approach being outright dishonest.

Dr. Kellermann's studies purporting to show that a gun in the home is more likely to hurt residents than to drive off a criminal seem to have been designed to show a certain result, and that is not good science. He demonstrates by this that he is an advocate, not an objective researcher.

Among other things,

  • His data ignore any self-defense situation in which the intruder was not killed, and this leaves out more than 99% of such situations.
  • He only considered burglaries of an occupied single family residence and excluded sexual assaults, meaning that he considered only 1.5% of all burglaries.
  • His case study included twice as many African-Americans as whites. Since African Americans are homicide victims out of proportion to their population share, his conclusions are not generalizable to society.

In an earlier study, Kellermann cautioned: "Mortality studies such as ours do not include cases in which burglars or intruders are wounded or frightened away by the use or display of a firearm.

"Cases in which would-be intruders may have purposely avoided a house known to be armed are also not identified. ... A complete determination of firearm risks versus benefits would require that these figures be known."

In his later work, he did not follow his own advice.

The work of Dr. Kellermann is contradicted by reputable work in the field of criminology, especially that of Dr. Gary Kleck, of Florida State University. Kleck's research has demonstrated that the volume of self-defense situations with guns, most of which take place in or near the home, far exceeds the number of accidents, suicides and murders in which a gun kept in the home plays a role.

Bruce A. Clark
Highland Park

The letter as originally submitted (i.e., before being shortened for publication).

List of Sources Requested by the Post Gazette

A Response to the Letter in the Post Gazette

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