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Does Gun Ownership Deter Burglaries?


Although there is no evidence to indicate gun ownership deters overall burglary rates, gun ownership may be a factor in deterring burglars from entering occupied dwellings ("hot" burglaries).


In studies involving interviews of felons, one of the reasons the majority of burglars try to avoid occupied homes is the chance of getting shot. (Increasing the odds of arrest is another.) A study of Pennsylvania burglary inmates reported that many burglars refrain from late-night burglaries because it's hard to tell if anyone is home, several explaining "That's the way to get shot." (Rengert G. and Wasilchick J., Suburban Burglary: A Time and a Place for Everything, 1985, Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.)

By comparing criminal victimization surveys from Britain and the Netherlands (countries having low levels of gun ownership) with the U.S., Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck determined that if the U.S. were to have similar rates of "hot" burglaries as these other nations, there would be more than 450,000 additional burglaries per year where the victim was threatened or assaulted. (Britain and the Netherlands have a "hot" burglary rate near 45% versus just under 13% for the U.S., and in the U.S. a victim is threatened or attacked 30% of the time during a "hot" burglary.)

Source: Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York, 1997.

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