It’s natural in the event of a horrific crime to look for a way that it could have been prevented, and it doesn’t get much more horrific than last week’s brutal, and seemingly random, assault of an elderly Waterville woman.

But in the wake of the attack, Joe Massey, the city’s police chief, came to the wrong conclusion.

“It’s one of those cases where you could make a good argument for citizens arming themselves,” Massey said four days after the assault. “Someone said, ‘A gun in hand is better than someone on the phone telling you police are on their way.’ In cases like this, you wish the homeowner had a weapon and was capable of defending themselves.”

That way of thinking may satisfy a very real human need to feel protected, and appeal to a certain sense of justice, but it also puts more people in danger.

People may buy a weapon to protect themselves and their families against assaults, home invasions, or public mass shootings, but in reality — and thankfully — only a very small percentage of Americans will ever come face-to-face with those tragedies.

More likely, the presence of a gun in a household will make that household less safe.

Research has shown again and again that people who own guns or those who live in proximity to guns are more likely to die by firearm or commit suicide than people who do not.

That includes children. More than two a week die from unintentional shootings, most often in a home or vehicle owned by the victim’s family and with a legally owned firearm that is not properly secured.

And last year, at least 265 children under the age of 18 accidentally shot themselves or someone else.

One can, as Massey did, say that firearm owners must be well-trained and responsible.

But in most cases, gun owners are responsible until they are not, and it only takes a momentarily lapse to allow a child to pick up an unsecured gun and do themselves or others harm. Accidents happen, and when they happen around a firearm, they are often tragic.

Of course, both the number of gun owners who use their weapon in self-defense and the number who are victims of accidents are both dwarfed by the number who never use their firearm for anything more than deer hunting.

But when an act of violence leads a police chief to say more people should be armed, it is important to point out that a weapon is more likely to be used against one’s own family than an intruder.

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