Research by Aaron Kivisto garners international media attention

aaron_kivistoResearch by Aaron Kivisto, associate professor of clinical and forensic psychology, explored the link between gun ownership and greater incidences of domestic homicides. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and revealed for each 10% increase in household gun ownership rates, there is a 13% increase in domestic firearm homicide incidents.

“The narrative about gun ownership and personal protection tends to ignore the risks associated with firearm ownership, including the risks to others in the home. Gun owners should weigh up these perceived benefits and risks and engage in safe storage and other practices to reduce the risk of a domestic incident becoming fatal,” Kivisto told Newsweek.

Kivisto and his co-authors, which included UIndy alum Peter Phalen ’18 (Psy.D.), studied annual data on homicide rates in 50 states between 1990 and 2016, from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report.

As firearms deaths in the United States continue to rise, determining the causal factors that lead  to them is becoming even more important. One of those factors that is examined in this study is the number of households with firearms. While previous studies have examined this link in a 1:1 manner, Kivisto and his team discovered that the increase in gun ownership relates more closely to the rise in domestic homicides. As importantly, Kivisto found that the increased risk of firearm homicide attributable to firearm ownership isn’t equally shared across victims.

One of the conclusions reached by this research is that, because women are the victims in cases of domestic homicide at a disproportionate rate, they shoulder the burden of the risks of this increased gun ownership.

Kivisto noted that while men are the victims in 3 of 4 typical homicides, that flips entirely in the case of domestic homicides where women are the victim 3 in 4 times.

The findings should help guide future policy in the United States. “While some federal laws are in place that are aimed at reducing domestic firearm violence, not enough has been done to enforce them at the federal level. States that have enacted legislation to prohibit individuals at high risk of intimate partner violence from possessing firearms and requiring them to relinquish any they currently own, have a lower incidence of domestic firearm homicide,” said Kivisto.

The research, as well as an interview with Kivisto, was highlighted by the New York Times. Additional national and international coverage included Newsweek, WebMD, The Independent (UK), KUNC Radio, Scienmag and US News & World Report. Other outlets covering the story included MTV, Jezebel and Drugs.com.