Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Story Was a Hit and Miss

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Story Was a Hit and Miss

Article excerpt

DID YOU KNOW that a study published this month shows you're almost three times as likely to be killed at home if you keep a gun in your house?

That statement has the ring of significance - and controversy. With gun ownership and gun-control laws currently being hotly debated, that research should be of interest to a great many readers.

You may have learned about it in an editorial in Monday's Post-Dispatch. And a few of you may have read a Post-Dispatch news story four days earlier, spelling out its findings - if you got the Three Star, or out-of-town, edition.

The 15-paragraph Associated Press story was printed in only about 15,000 copies of the 340,000-plus total press run. No word about it in the Five Star, home-delivery copies.

Why is that? Well, space limitations and editors' judgments dictate which stories run through all editions of a day's issue. Something's got to give for late-breaking news, and this appears to have been one that gave.

Because the story ran in so few copies of the paper, it isn't surprising that only a few readers have written letters to the editor on the subject, some of which appear today.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Oct. 7, page 1084), reported that researchers "found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide (adjusted odds ratio, 2.7)."

The research, directed by Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann, of Emory University, covered 420 killings in three metropolitan areas chosen for their standards of living and race.

The AP story quoted a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, criticizing the study for "focusing on homicides, not nonfatal uses of guns for protection."

A finding not included, which may be germane to the question of gun ownership for home protection, was this:

"Homicides by a stranger accounted for only 15 cases (3.6 percent)." About 76 percent were killed by a relative or someone known to the victim. Identity of the offender couldn't be determined in 17.4 percent of the cases. The remainder included policemen and "others."

Of interest to me were other findings that correlate more strongly to homicides in the home, such as the following:

Use of illegal drugs, 5.7 times more likely to accompany homicide; living in a rented instead of an owned home, 4.4 times as likely; having a family member hit or hurt in a fight, 4.4 times; and living alone, 3.7 times as likely.

Future stories likely will refer to this research as the debate goes on. Too bad it didn't reach more readers.

Now, on another subject: Here's a readers' wish-list - requests or complaints that readers have voiced most often in recent days. I sanction their calls:

1. Darker print: Probably the most frequently heard request is for darker print. …

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