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Guns

September 03, 1989

John Hurst says in "Why I Own a Gun" that "statistics indicate that owning a gun is a deadly gamble." He contrasts the number of guns stolen (which has nothing to do with the "deadly gamble"), the number of suicides (which is also not a gamble, but a purposeful act that can be committed by any number of means, all equally deadly), the number of willful homicides (a legitimate number), the number of accidents (also a legitimate number), with the number of justifiable homicides by citizens of criminals. What was neglected here is the number of crimes prevented by firearms without a shot being fired and usually not reported. The national figures show that more than 1 million instances of crimes are thwarted every year by private citizens (reported in the journal Social Problems in February 1988). California's population is about 10% of that of the United States; that means about 100,000 crimes did not happen because of firearms, compared to Hurst's total of deaths committed with guns--3,740 (that includes suicides). Perhaps it is not such a gamble after all?

LEE F. MELLINGER, Van Nuys

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