I started writing about gun violence in 2012, hoping I could provide some degree of objectivity for how public health and medical researchers talked about guns. What concerned me then, and continues to concern me now, is the degree to which scholars providing ‘evidence-based’ research to help define more effective strategies and programs for reducing gun violence should align their research with at least some degree of understanding about how gun owners use their guns.

              Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, and a typical example of the lack of reality about gun behavior can be found in a new article published in JAMA Network covering the different ways that gun owners deal with safe storage of their guns.

              Here’s what the research article is all about: “Unsecure home firearm storage is associated with further increased risk of firearm death, and the promotion of secure firearm storage (e.g., with a locking device) may help reduce firearm injury and death.”

              However, according to the research findings, nearly 60% of the respondents in this survey said they kept at least one gun around the house unlocked, and one out of five said they kept the unlocked gun in plain sight.

              Of course, this information tells us that many gun owners are behaving with their guns in very unsafe ways. Who but an idiot would leave an unlocked gun lying around, right?

              This question and the choices respondents were given for an answer demonstrates just how meaningless this survey happens to be, and the idea that it would be used to formulate more effective strategies for dealing with gun violence is a joke.

              Why do I say that? Because what the researchers should have asked was whether the gun owner was able to access the gun while it was ‘hidden’ away. If I stick a gun in my pocket and I’m a woman and I put the gun in my purse, guess what? The gun is hidden and I’m probably the only person who knows where it is.

              My state, Massachusetts, has the strictest CAP law of any such law in any state. The law requires that every gun be locked or locked away, and if a gun is not safely stored the owner can be charged with a felony, even if no injury or other problem caused by an unlocked gun occurs.

              Except there happens to be a distinction in the law which basically says that the weapon does not have to be physically secured if the owner can reach out and touch the gun. And what this interpretation of the law represents is the fact that many gun owners keep a gun within reach from time to time and don’t consider this practice to constitute any kind of risk.

              The lack of reality involved in the analysis about keeping unsecured guns in the home is exceeded by how the researchers attempted to analyze why respondents bought and own guns. Gun owners were given the following choices to explain why they owned guns: home protection, concealed-carry, hunting, job requirement and heirloom. Of course, the majority response was that guns were needed for self-defense.

              I owned gun shops in three states – SC, NY, MA – and sold eleven or twelve thousand guns to probably seven thousand different customers in those three shops. Know why more than 90 percent of those customers bought a gun or guns from me? Because they had some extra bucks in their pockets or on their VISA cards and wanted to buy another gun.

              This may come as a great shock to all my friends who do research on gun violence, but the average gun buyer in my gun shop put about as much emotional and psychic energy into thinking about buying a gun as he put into deciding which lottery ticket to buy that morning at the convenience store on the way to work.

              Every single gun owner knows that guns are dangerous, that a gun around the home represents a risk, and that there’s always a chance that one of their guns will wind up being used to injure someone either by accident, or on purpose, or maybe both.

              Want to know what was the most common issue discussed in my gun shops? A description about how so-and-so shot a gun off by accident and the worst thing that happened was that a storm window had to be replaced. And such stories always get a good laugh from everyone hanging around.

              Here’s the article’s conclusion: “Secure firearm storage messaging that helps clarify the risk of unsecured firearms beyond situations involving child access may thus serve as a method for increasing secure storage.”

              It is now thirty years since Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research which definitively showed that access to guns in the home created serious medical risk. They did not qualify guns as being safely stored, and no subsequent research has ever found any substantive connection between safe storage and reduced gun risk.

              The authors of the current JAMA study not only assume a palliative impact from safe storage which has no basis in experience or evidence-based research, but they compound their uninformed assumption with a fundamental lack of understanding about how gun owners use or think about their guns.

              Of course, the authors of this article can all list this work on their CV’s. And isn’t that the point of public health research?