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October 11, 2000

Would Prevention of Gun Carrying Reduce US Homicide Rates?—Reply

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Executive Deputy EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2000;284(14):1788-1789. doi:10.1001/jama.284.14.1783

In Reply: Dr Marvel's reference to our founding fathers' intentions about gun carrying is an interesting historical point that is widely misunderstood. Contrary to the view that the founding fathers were routinely armed in the course of their everyday lives, recent evidence suggests the contrary. Analysis of some 1000 wills probated from 1763 to 1790 on the New England and Pennsylvania frontiers shows that only 14% of adult males owned firearms, of which only half were in working order.1 In a country where, at most, only 1 in 14 men owned a working firearm, the protection of the public from the effects of widespread gun carrying was probably not foremost in the framers' thinking. Since the revolver had not even been invented, it is fair to say that in 1789 the current level of gun violence in America was literally unimaginable.