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Learn About the Different Types of Crimes - ThoughtCo
Four limitations warrant comment. First, our study was restricted to homicides occurring in the home of the victim. The dynamics of homicides occurring in other locations (such as bars, retail establishments, or the street) may be quite different. Second, our research was conducted in three urban counties that lack a substantial percentage of Hispanic citizens. Our results may therefore not be generalizable to more rural communities or to Hispanic households. Third, it is possible that reverse causation accounted for some of the association we observed between gun ownership and homicide -- i.e., in a limited number of cases, people may have acquired a gun in response to a specific threat. If the source of that threat subsequently caused the homicide, the link between guns in the home and homicide may be due at least in part to the failure of these weapons to provide adequate protection from the assailants. Finally, we cannot exclude the possibility that the association we observed is due to a third, unidentified factor. If, for example, people who keep guns in their homes are more psychologically prone to violence than people who do not, this could explain the link between gun ownership and homicide in the home. Although we examined several behavioral markers of violence and aggression and included two in our final logistic-regression model, “psychological confounding” of this sort is difficult to control for. “Psychological autopsies” have been used to control for psychological differences between adolescent victims of suicide and inpatient controls with psychiatric disorders, but we did not believe this approach was practical for a study of homicide victims and neighborhood controls. At any rate, a link between gun ownership and any psychological tendency toward violence or victimization would have to be extremely strong to account for an adjusted odds ratio of 2.7.
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Although case-control studies offer many advantages over ecologic studies, they are prone to several sources of bias. To minimize selection bias, we included all cases of homicide in the home and rigorously followed an explicit procedure for randomly selecting neighborhood control subjects. High response rates among case proxies (92.6 percent) and matching controls (80.6 percent) minimized nonresponse bias. Case respondents did not differ significantly from nonrespondents with regard to the age, sex, and race of the victim and the type of weapon involved. Although double homicides and murder-suicides were considered single events to avoid overrepresenting their effects, the number of cases excluded for this reason was small.