Fear is a friend if you are in the gun business. In the wake of mass shootings in Colorado and California this month, gun shops have been busy running background checks for people rushing to arm themselves.

In Maine the number of background checks surged 26.5 percent higher in November over the same period a year ago. The sales are driven by fear, gun dealers say, but it’s not fear of out-of-control shooters – it’s fear of President Obama and an imagined gun confiscation campaign.

“They’ve been thinking about it anyway and they needed a little push,” said Fred Emerson of Allsport Performance in Hermon. “Then there’s a speech by Obama or something happening that will put them over the edge to do it.”

“Over the edge” is the right term. The rush to stockpile guns to prepare for a grab by the federal government is paranoid impulse fueled by misinformation from right-wing media. It creates a fear of a next-to-impossible event that obscures the very real danger that comes from guns falling into the hands of the wrong people. Often the biggest risks are faced by the gun owners themselves.

Take suicide. Studies have consistently found that gun owners are much more likely to kill themselves than those who don’t have guns. It’s easy to understand why. The impulse to commit suicide can be formed in an instant, and using a gun leaves no chance to reconsider. Half of the approximately 30,000 gun deaths every year are suicides.

Another risk is murder, not committed by a crazed mass murderer or a terrorist, but by the very law abiding people who are rushing to the gun stores. Study after study finds that where there are more guns, there is more homicide.

A 2013 study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher found that a 1 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with a roughly 0.9 percent rise in the firearm homicide rate at the state level. A gun in the house has the potential of making a domestic violence episode deadly and can turn a simple argument into a duel.

Add in the mayhem facilitated by stolen guns and shooting accidents, too-easy access to guns poses a greater threat to public safety than mass murderers and terrorists.

These are the kinds of things that gun owners should rightly be afraid of, but instead they are rushing to the gun shops, likely putting themselves and their families at greater risk to protect themselves from gun laws that would not prevent them from owning and buying most firearms.

Someone should tell them that Obama is not coming for their guns. If they are determined to be afraid, they should look in the mirror.

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