There's a lot to unpack in the argument, "Gun control advocates often say that owning a gun makes you significantly more likely to become a victim of a violent crime."
As with many social problems discussed as political problems, there's often a significant amount of word and position framing going on.
The argument that I've heard, often repeated and often paraphrased, "You are more likely to die if you own a gun than you are to kill in self defense." This position often gets rephrased as one of many possible iterations:
- "You are more likely to die from gun violence if you own a gun."
- "People in homes with handguns more likely to be shot dead."
- "More good people with guns are killed than bad guys."
Whatever the phrasing, it comes down to the actual words that are used.
An article discussing a 2022 study, indicated
...that for every 100,000 people living with a handgun, 12 will be
shot do death by someone else over five years. In comparison, eight
out of 100,000 who live in gun-free homes will be killed that way over
the same time span.
Note that the study didn't indicate that people were more likely to be killed by the hand gun owner or the gun owned by a member of the household. It did indicate, however, that people who lived with handgun owner "particularly increased the risk of being shot to death in a domestic violence incident."
The article also highlights
The study focused only on homicide risk and did not examine how living
with a handgun owner might increase or decrease the risk of being
victimized in other ways, including by nonfatal assault, home
invasion, or property theft.
One of the criticisms of the study, highlighted in the article, is that "the researchers said they could not determine which victims had been killed by the handgun owners or with the in-home weapons."
Without knowing if the victim had been killed by the in-home weapon or a weapon wielded by a criminal raises more questions:
- Was a gun owned because the owner lived in a high-crime area?
- If so, was the victim killed because they owned a gun or because they lived in an area which made them more likely to be a victim of gun violence?
That article links to another article that claims:
there was no clear association between the increase in firearm
purchases and the increase in most interpersonal gun violence at the
It's very difficult to correlate this lack of increased interpersonal gun violence while firearm purchases increased with the claim that owning a gun makes you more likely to be a victim. If we see gun ownership increase then we should also see gun violence increase causally rather than coincidentally.
Regarding the general discussion about guns more likely to cause the death of the owner rather than the death of a criminal, this is likely true. The more of anything you own the more likely it is to have a negative effect on you. You can't be killed by your own gun if you don't own one and a significant portion of gun deaths are by suicide, more likely to be with a gun owned by the suicidal person.
However, defensive gun use, more often than not, doesn't involve any shots being fired.
The U.S. Department of Justice has done numerous surveys related to defensive gun use and attempting to estimate is prevalence. Unfortunately, the most recent publication I can find is from 1997. The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms estimated anywhere from 108,000 to 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year. This is when there were about 200 million guns in the U.S., significantly fewer than today.
There are those who argue that these numbers are inflated and those who argue these numbers are suppressed. The surveys include not just the intended victim shooting the criminal, it also includes the intended victim showing a gun or telling the criminal they have a gun.
It's difficult to find a study that shows a causal relationship between owning a gun and being a victim of a crime.