A Georgia mother shot an intruder inside her Loganville home last week while her two young children hid in a crawlspace, sparking calls from pro-gun advocates to relax gun control laws, as the case illustrates how helpful the presence of a gun in the home can be for self-defense.
But the evidence suggests that gun ownership does not actually save lives in the home, as many more Americans are killed by their guns than use them to kill burglars or other intruders.
The discussion of this heroic incident raises the question of whether politicians should relax gun control laws in America so that others can have easier access to a wider range of firearms in order to protect their families.
Melinda Herman has been anointed as a national hero by gun-control opponents, who say her case illustrates why we need more access to guns in the United States, not less.
The National Rifle Association, the nation's leading advocacy group for the gun lobby and more lax gun laws, tweeted a link to an article about the shooting, suggesting that the NRA supports the contention that cases such as Herman's bolster the case for expanding access to guns in the U.S.
And Joe Chapman, the sheriff of Walton County, Ga. -- where Loganville is located -- hailed Herman as a local heroine after the Jan. 4 incident in comments reported by ABC News:
"This lady decided that she wasn't going to be a victim, and I think everyone else looks at this and hopes they have the courage to do what she done," Chapman said.
But the evidence suggests that just because one Georgia mom was able to fend off an intruder using a .38-caliber handgun, that doesn't mean firearm ownership provides a higher level of safety in the home.
In fact, the body of relevant statistical evidence shows just the opposite to be true.
A wealth of studies show that chances of death by homicide or suicide increase substantially with the presence of a firearm in the home.
For instance, one 2004 study published in the Oxford Journal found a direct link between such causes of death and gun ownership:
"The findings of this study add to the body of research showing an association between guns in the home and risk of a violent death," the study states. "Those persons with guns in the home were at significantly greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a suicide in the home relative to other causes of death."
The Oxford Journal found that people with guns in the home are 1.9 times as likely to die of homicide in their home, while the risk for males of dying of a suicide in the home was 10.4 times higher.
A 2003 study published in "The Annals of Emergency Medicine" found similar results, reporting that people who have guns in the home are nearly twice as likely to be murdered by guns, and more than 17 more likely to kill themselves with a gun, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control advocacy group.
The Brady Campaign also cites studies that produced statistics suggesting that the increased rates of homicide and suicide are not offset by a comparable level of instances such as Herman's, in which guns are used to kill intruders:
"Every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, it is used: 11 times for completed and attempted suicides (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263), seven times in criminal assaults and homicides, and four times in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries," the Brady Campaign reports.
And the list goes on, as statistics continue to emerge that show that gun ownership contributes greatly to the chances of homicide and suicide in the home.
It appears the evidence clearly indicates that gun ownership in the home does not increase the safety of its occupants, and that in fact is that the opposite is true.
Still Melinda Herman’s is a compelling tale about the good that can sometimes be achieved by the presence of a gun in the home.
Herman was working in her Loganville house when she heard a ring at the door, according to the incident report as reported by the Associated Press. She called her husband, Donnie Herman, at his place of employment, and he told her to take their 9-year-old twins and hide, which they did in an upstairs crawlspace, with Melinda Herman carrying her handgun.
ABC News reports that when the intruder made his way to the crawlspace, she began to shoot him after he opened the door to the space. The man begged her to stop shooting, but she emptied her clip before fleeing to a neighbor's house, after which the intruder left in an SUV, ABC News reported.
A 32-year-old Atlanta man named Paul Slater was found nearby in the SUV, inside of which he was bleeding from his face after being shot five times in the face and neck, according to the Daily Mail.
He was taken to a local hospital, but his medical condition was not released, though the Daily Mail reported on Jan. 6 that he was expected to survive the multiple gunshot wounds.