From Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture and the Law (Gregg Lee Carter ed., ABC-CLIO 2002).

By Paul Gallant and Joanne Eisen


Arthur L. Kellermann is Director of the Center for Injury Control at the Rollins School of Public Health, and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine. He is most well-known for his research on firearm-related injuries and deaths, and has been one of the most controversial scholars in this area. The focus of Kellermann's interest has been whether the benefits of keeping a firearm in the home are worth the risks.

Kellermann received his M.D. degree from Emory University School of Medicine in 1980, and his M.P.H. degree from the University of Washington in 1985. He has published over fifty papers on various aspects of emergency cardiac care, health services research, and the role of emergency departments in the provision of health care to the poor.

At the Rollins School, Kellermann co-teaches a course on legislative advocacy for public health. He has received the Hal Jayne Academic Excellence Award from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and was also awarded the Excellence in Science Award from the Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section of the American Public Health Association.

Kellermann's first study which gained widespread attention was published in 1986 in the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM). Analyzing firearm-related deaths in the home in Kings County (Seattle), Washington, Kellermann and his co-authors "noted 43 suicides, criminal homicides, or accidental gunshot deaths involving a gun kept in the home for every case of homicide for self-protection..." They concluded that "the advisability of keeping firearms in the home for protection must be questioned."

The 43-times-more-likely figure may be the most widely-quoted factoid in the American gun control debate. Among the many reasons for which the figure has been criticized are (1) counting only deaths as the measure of the protective benefits of a firearm and ignoring non-lethal defensive uses, and (2) lumping together high-risk homes (e.g., homes with alcoholics or people with violent felony convictions) with ordinary homes.

In another study co-authored by Kellermann, published in the July 1992 Journal of Trauma, the authors concluded: "when women kill, their victim is five times more likely to be their spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a member of the family....In light of these data, the wisdom of promoting firearms to women for self-protection should be seriously questioned." Dr. Edgar A. Suter retorted, "Most women kill in defense of themselves and their children. In these common circumstances, lawful self-defense by women against their attackers [even self-defense against a violent ex-husband] is not 'murder' in any jurisdiction."

In 1993, Kellermann again sought to demonstrate that a gun in the home presents a greater risk to its owner than to a criminal, and specifically to address the issue of "whether keeping a firearm in the home confers protection against crime or, instead, increases the risk of violent crime in the home." In the October 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Kellermann and his co-authors concluded that "rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide...." In fact, claimed the authors, the risk for homicide by a family member or acquaintance was 2.7 times higher if a gun were kept in the home, than if one was not.

Among the criticisms leveled at this study were the failure to account adequately for false denials of gun ownership (telling pollster one does not own a gun when, in fact, he or she does) by some of the control population, and the failure to connect the victim's gun with any role in most of the homicides.

Because some of Kellermann's firearm research has received extensive and highly favorable media attention, other scholars have requested that Kellermann make his datasets available for study. In response, Kellermann has slowly made some, but far from all, of the requested data available. Much of Kellermann's research was funded by taxpayer funds through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which did not require its researchers to reveal their data as a condition for funding.

More than any other CDC grant recipient, Kellermann's work sparked Congressional interest in the CDC's gun control agenda. This was because Kellermann's research was of great value to gun control advocates -- in part because of his knack for distilling a study into a single easily-remembered numeric factoid.

After House of Representatives hearings in 1996, where Kellermann's work received both scathing attacks and passionate defenses, Congress prohibited the CDC from spending any funds in order to "advocate or promote gun control."

Upon rejection of his subsequent application for additional grant money from the CDC, Kellermann stated "this will be the first time in my career that I won't be funded by the CDC. I will look elsewhere." He soon began to receive research support from the National Institute of Justice, which is part of the Department of Justice. 


For further information, contact:


Center for Injury Control

Rollins School of Public Health

1518 Clifton Road NE

Atlanta, GA 30322



For further reading:


House of Representatives; Committee on Appropriations; Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1997. Part 7, Testimony of Members of Congress and Other Interested Individuals and Organizations. (Wash. :Govt. Print. Off., 1996).

Faria, Miguel Jr. 2001. "Public Health and Gun Control - A Review." The Medical Sentinel 6(1):11-18.

Kates, Don B., Schaffer, Henry E., Lattimer, John K., Murray, George B., and Cassem, Edwin H. 1995. "Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?" Tennessee Law Review 62(3): 513-596.

Kellermann, Arthur L. and Mercy, James A. 1992. "Men, Women, and Murder: Gender-Specific Differences in Rates of Fatal Violence and Victimization." Journal of Trauma 33:1-5.

Kellermann, Arthur L. and Reay, Donald T. 1986. "Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearms-Related Deaths in the Home." New England Journal of Medicine 314:1557-1560. 

Kellermann, Arthur L., Rivara, Frederick P., Rushforth, Norman B., Banton, Joyce G., Reay, Donald T., Francisco, Jerry T., Locci, Ana B., Prodzinski, Janice, Hackman, Bela B., and Somes, Grant. 1993. "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home." New England Journal of Medicine 329(15): 1084-1091.

Kellermann, Arthur L., Rivara, Frederick P., Somes, Grant , et al. 1992. "Suicide in the Home in Relationship to Gun Ownership." New England Journal of Medicine 327:467-472.

Suter, Edgar A. 1994. "Guns in the Medical Literature - A Failure of Peer Review." Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia 83(March): 133-148.

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