U.S. should study gun violence as a public health hazard
We’ve been taking two ineffective approaches to gun violence. The first is to debate whether we need more or fewer guns. Fearing criticism for not supporting the Second Amendment, legislators are easily persuaded we need more guns.
The second approach occurs after a mass shooting. A new gun law is proposed. We argue its merits, and then Second Amendment concerns swallow the process, and nothing changes.
We’ve got things backwards. We need to research and understand gun violence. Only then can we craft realistic solutions that comply with the Second Amendment.
Note to gun enthusiasts: the Second Amendment doesn’t provide unlimited gun rights. At least four federal appellate courts have held that bans on “assault” weapons are constitutional.
Let’s start by evaluating what we want. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. had 12,979 gun homicides, 84,997 gun injuries and 22,979 gun suicides in 2015. Is this acceptable?
The CDC tells us 629 children, age 11 and younger, were killed or injured by guns in 2015, as were 6985 teens, ages 12–17. Is this what we want?
Everytown for Gun Safety calculates that from 2009 to 2016 we had 156 mass shootings — four or more people killed, excluding the shooter — where 848 people were killed and another 339 were injured. Fifty-four percent of mass shootings are related to domestic violence, and in a third of the shootings, the shooter was prohibited from possessing firearms. Is that okay?
Until we agree on what type of society we want, we can’t make policy decisions. Some will argue violence is part of the human condition, a reality we have to accept. Nonsense!
We’re not so fatalistic about other types of crimes. We legislate to effect control over what threatens us. We didn’t accept polio or automobile deaths as beyond our control. If we were to lose 30,000 people annually to aviation crashes, we wouldn’t wring our hands and lament over the power of gravity.
Because of the gun lobby, Congress put the cuffs on the CDC in researching gun violence. Let’s study gun violence like we study every other public health hazard, and let’s talk about the costs that come with more guns.
More guns means more gun violence. In the study he conducted, Michael Siegel, M.D. of the Boston University School of Health, found a “robust correlation” between estimated levels of gun ownership and actual gun homicides. For each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the gun homicide rate increases by 0.9 percent.
More guns means more women die from guns. Siegel also found that for every 10 percent increase in gun ownership, the gun homicide rate for women increases at the same rate.
More guns mean more gun suicides. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that suicide victims living in homes with guns were more than 30 times more likely to have died from a gun than other means.
More guns — maybe more opportunities for kids to shoot themselves and others?
More guns likely means more guns will be stolen. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, some 200,000 to 500,000 guns are stolen annually. Where do you think those guns end up? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is hamstrung trying trace guns used in crimes. We don’t have a national database for most guns, and the ATF’s resources for tracing guns is outdated.
Guns serve many useful purposes, but their use comes at great cost, a fact our politicians fail to grasp. Enough with thoughts and prayers. It’s time to recognize gun violence for what it is — a public health hazard.
[This piece was published in the Columbus Dispatch on Nov. 13, 2017.]
Jack D’Aurora writes for Considerthisbyjd.com and is on the advisory council for Giffords Ohio Coalition, formerly the Ohio Coalition for Commons Sense
Originally published at Consider This by JD.