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Arming The 'Good Guys' Raises Gun Safety Questions

Publication Date: 
January 12, 2013
San Jose Mercury News
Julia Prodis Sulek and Josh Richman

Professor John Donohue is quoted by Julia Prodis Sulek and Josh Richman in this San Jose Mercury News article on gun safety and how he believes it's still safer "not having a gun." 

He awoke to a noise in the middle of the night. Was it coming from inside his San Jose home? The back patio? Bijan Moeinzadeh couldn't tell. But his instincts immediately kicked in: He grabbed the .357 revolver from a lockbox in his bedroom and slipped it in his pocket. Inching toward the noise, he discovered a stranger riffling through belongings on his porch. The patio light and a shout scared off the intruder. The gun never left Moeinzadeh's pocket, but the Navy medic who recently returned from Afghanistan - and who learned to shoot as a Boy Scout and often practices at a San Jose firing range - said he felt safer for having it.


But Stanford University law professor John Donohue III wrote in 2003 that Lott's "statistical evidence that these laws have reduced crime is limited, sporadic and extraordinarily fragile," and that "there is stronger evidence for the conclusion that these laws increase crime than there is for the conclusion that they decrease it." That remains true today, Donohue said.

"You can anecdotally find circumstances in which having a gun was helpful," he said. "But having a gun is a little like having a chest X-ray: If you have lung cancer, a chest X-ray can save your life, but if you have a chest X-ray every day, it can kill you."

Nancy Lanza, whose mentally ill son used her own legally owned firearms to kill her before he went on a rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Donohue noted.

"Unless you have a very strong reason for thinking you're a target,'' he said, "I think you'd probably be safer not having a gun."