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News Release

For immediate use

April 21, 2005 -- No. 196

Permitting workers to carry weapons
ups the chance that they will be killed

UNC News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- Homicides among workers are three times as likely in workplaces that permit weapons as in those in which all weapons are prohibited, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows.

That risk roughly doubles when the weapons allowed are guns, researchers found.

A report on the UNC School of Public Health investigation appears in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers Dana Loomis, Stephen W. Marshall and Myduc Ta compared 87 cases in which an employee was killed on the job in North Carolina between 1994 and 1998 with 177 comparable worksites across the state where no homicide occurred. They excluded cases and controls where employers had no explicit policies about weapons.

Drs. Loomis and Marshall are, respectively, professor and assistant professor of epidemiology. Both are members of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, and Marshall also is assistant professor of orthopaedics at the UNC School of Medicine. Ta is an epidemiology graduate student.

"We observed a small increase in the risk of homicide for workplaces that prohibited guns but allowed other kinds of weapons," Loomis said. "In contrast, there was a nearly seven-fold increase in the risk of a worker being killed in workplaces that allowed guns and other weapons."

Adjusting for various workplace characteristics reduced the added chance of homicide by about a third, but the increased risk was still clear, he said.

"We don’t know employers’ reasons for allowing workers to have guns on the job, but the belief that firearms offer protection against crime is obviously a possible motive," Loomis said.

"However, our data suggest that, like residents of households with guns, who are more likely to be victims of homicide, workers in places where the employer allows guns have a greater chance of being killed at work," he said.

The findings bear directly on workplace safety policies, Loomis said.

"In light of these findings, employers should question the risks and benefits of permitting firearms," he said.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supported the research.

Collaborating in the work were N.C. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. John Butts, also professor of pathology; Dr. Carol Runyan, professor of health behavior and health education and director of the Injury Prevention Research Center; and epidemiology research associate Susanne Wolf, project manager.

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Note: Loomis can be reached at (919) 966-7433, Marshall at 966-1320.

News Services contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596