Fox Hides Danger Of Guns In Homes Behind Rare Instances Of Self-Defense

Fox News has repeatedly hidden the danger of keeping guns in homes behind a handful of anecdotes about home owners who frightened off criminals with their own firearms. Research actually shows that guns kept in homes are far more likely to kill or injure those living there than deter crime.

On Monday's edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly juxtaposed reports that the White House may push for laws to prevent gun violence with a story about a homeowner near Atlanta who successfully repelled a burglar with her gun. Kelly said that the home invasion “could have ended tragically for a family, but for the fact that the mother had a .38 revolver and knew how to use it.”

As correspondent Mike Emanuel gave a report on the White House's interest in gun-violence legislation, text aired on-screen that read: “Mom's Shooting of Intruder Puts New Twist On Gun Control Debate.”

On the December 5 edition of The Five, the co-hosts recited two stories of homeowners who had repelled invading criminals with firearms in the first five minutes of the show. Co-host Andrea Tantaros concluded that “burglars are less apt to break in if they think they might have their brains blown out.”

Yet Fox's emphasis on these reports hides the fact that such successful self-defense stories are extremely rare. In a 2011 report summarizing scientific literature about the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, found that one study in Atlanta determined victims of break-ins used firearms in self-defense 1.5 percent of the time. Hemenway cited a second study that found guns were used in self-defense by victims of sexual assault in fewer than 0.1 percent of incidents. He concluded that “genuine self-defense gun use is rare” and that “the evidence does not indicate that having a gun reduces the risk of being a victim of a crime or that having a gun reduces the risk of injury during the commission of a crime.”

In fact, research has repeatedly found that a gun kept in one's home is far more likely to injure or kill those inside the home. Hemenway wrote that many studies found “that a gun in the home is a risk for homicide in the home” and determined, “The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns.” The Harvard Injury Control Research Center described a separate study conducted by Hemenway by saying that "[g]uns in the home are used more often to intimidate intimates than to thwart crime." A 2004 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”

On its website, The Brady Campaign, citing a 1998 study by public health expert Arthur Kellermann, states:

Every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, it is used:

  • 11 times for completed and attempted suicides (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263).
  • 7 times in criminal assaults and homicides, and
  • 4 times in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.