Volume 16, Issue 1 p. 7-35
Original Article

Firearm Availability and Violent Death: The Need for a Culture Change in Attitudes toward Guns

Wolfgang Stroebe

Corresponding Author

Wolfgang Stroebe

University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Wolfgang Stroebe, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712TS Groningen, The Netherlands [e-mail: [email protected]].Search for more papers by this author
First published: 23 November 2015
Citations: 13


There are two conflicting positions toward gun ownership in the United States. Proponents of stricter gun control argue that guns are responsible for 32,000 gun-related deaths each year and that the introduction of stricter gun control laws would reduce this death toll. Gun rights advocates argue that the general availability of guns reduces homicide rates, due to deterrence and because guns are effective means of self-defense. Based on a review of the evidence, I draw the following conclusions: Gun prevalence is positively related to homicide rates. There is no evidence for a protective effect of gun ownership. In fact, gun owners have a greater likelihood of being murdered. Furthermore, gun ownership is associated with an increased risk of serious injuries, accidental death, and death from suicide. The evidence on the effectiveness of gun control measures has not been encouraging, partly because the influential gun lobby has successfully prevented the introduction of more effective measures. A federal registration system for all firearms would address many limitations of present gun control measures. To mobilize public opinion, a culture change in attitudes toward firearms is needed.