Approaching Gun Violence As A Public Health Problem

"Non-Violence sculpture by  Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd )Wikimedia Commons)

“Non-Violence sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd (Wikimedia Commons)

I would certainly describe something that kills 30,000 Americans before their time every year as a public health problem, wouldn’t you?

So would three Harvard experts who argue in the Journal of the American Medical Association today that the best way to curb gun violence is to treat it as a public health challenge not unlike smoking or car accidents.

From the press release:

They offer more than a dozen recommendations, based on successful strategies used in other public health crises. For example, they suggest a new, substantial national tax on all firearms and ammunition, to more accurately reflect the true societal costs of gun ownership and to provide a stable revenue source to target gun violence prevention. Such a tax would function like the tobacco tax, which provides crucial funding for smoking prevention efforts.

Other “off-the-shelf” approaches to preventing gun violence can be borrowed from efforts used in the 1970s to prevent accidental poisonings, the authors say. In the case of potentially harmful drugs, child safety packaging was introduced. In the case of guns, a similar strategy would be the manufacture of “smart guns” with security codes or locking devices. Also, routine education and counseling by physicians and national networks for education and prevention helped significantly reduce childhood poisoning deaths; similar efforts could help curb gun-related deaths.

Public health efforts to reduce motor vehicle deaths also offer ideas that could help prevent gun violence. Strategies included systematic safety standards for the driver (like driver education and licensing and drunk-driving legislation) and the vehicle (like safety glass and air bags). Similarly, strategies to reduce gun violence might include things like mandatory gun safety classes, penalties for violators of gun safety laws, reduced magazine clip sizes, and restrictions on rapid-fire firearms.

“Changing social norms is a fundamental public health strategy,” said Hemenway. “For common products like cigarettes, cars, and guns, many individuals, groups, and institutions need to become involved. As ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ similarly friends should help ensure that a friend going through a psychological crisis doesn’t have ready access to a firearm until the crisis is over.”

The authors also propose “de-glorifying” guns. “In much the same way that media, celebrities, peers, teachers, and physicians worked together in the latter decades of the 20th century to “de-glorify” cigarettes — previously seen as symbols of power, modernity, and sexuality — an analogous campaign ‘could justifiably equate gun violence with weakness, irrationality, and cowardice’ and reduce its glorification in movies, television, and video games.”

Listen to WBUR’s All Things Considered today for an interview with one of the JAMA piece’s authors, David Hemenway. And for further background that may make your blood boil, check out this other recent JAMA piece: Silencing The Science On Gun Research.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    And for further background that may make your blood boil. thanks for admitting your motavations BUR

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    I would certainly describe something that kills 30,000 Americans before their time every year as a public health problem, wouldn’t you?

    yes, and that thing is, wait for it, other americans.

    In the case of guns, a similar strategy would be the manufacture of “smart guns” with security codes or locking devices.

    all guns already come with locking devices. heck in MA they usually come with 2. so called “smart guns” are not actually available.

    Also, routine education and counseling by physicians and national networks for education and prevention helped significantly reduce childhood poisoning deaths; similar efforts could help curb gun-related deaths.

    or we could,as I and the NRA have been saying, have basic gun safety taught along with all the other basic safety we teach kids. “stop drop and roll” and “stop, dont touch, leave the area, tell an adult” should both be taught in schools

    Strategies included systematic safety standards for the driver (like driver education and licensing and drunk-driving legislation) and the vehicle (like safety glass and air bags). Similarly, strategies to reduce gun violence might include things like mandatory gun safety classes, penalties for violators of gun safety laws, reduced magazine clip sizes, and restrictions on rapid-fire firearms.

    brilliant!! thats probably why we already have every one of those things. (although i don’t know what the heck a “magazine clip” is, these must be some real hot-shot “experts”.)

    clearly friends do let friends drive drunk. that has not worked very well.

    i agree that we should “Deglorify” gun violence. as a responsible gun owner i am often shocked and disgusted by the portrayal of guns in tv movies and video games. it seems every “hero” in an american movie whips out a gun at the drop of a hat, finger on the trigger, and never has any repercussions from that. you cant even get through a primetime show without seeing an ad for a violent movie with bruce willis or someone blasting away. i would also like it if from time to time guns are shown as they are normally used. just once in the media i would like to see a parent and child go to the range or hunting, have a nice time then go home but i guess that would not make for a good drama

  • X-Ray

    There is no a thing as “Gun Violence”. Would you call a injury inflicted by
    a drunken driver as “Car Violence”? Of course not. A gun, even a so-called
    “Assault Weapon” does not do anything until it is picked up, loaded, aimed and
    fired. Calling it “Gun Violence” deflects the responsibility from the real cause
    of the violence, the operator. It also obfuscates the path needed actions to
    ameliorate the problem.

    • Duh

      It could be called vehicular manslaughter if that drunk killed someone. Do people jump in their cars and threaten to run you down if you don’t give them your wallet? When gang members “drive by” and “shoot” people that is called gun violence because the weapon used to injure or kill was a gun not a car. We don’t have a term “frying pan violence” because we don’t need one. The term gun violence however is a different story.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        actually i know a guy that happened to, it was his exwife and not a robber though. thats funny i thought drive bys were gang violence since its done by gangbangers and that makes sense because they are people and people can be responsible for things. have they come up with any ideas on how to keep the gangbangers from getting guns? i think it would be a heck of a lot easier to just put them out of business by ending our destructive policy of prohibition. thats the kind of thing you can actually come up with when you start to look at the actual causes of violence rather than the means. i bet if magically you got rid of the gangbangers guns they would just do “drive intos” instead of drive bys or maybe they would do drive by pressure cookerings. the term is newspeak, just a dispicable as the republicans use of the term “death tax”. it is intentionally misleading. newspeak is designed to make intelligent debate impossible

      • X-Ray

        So, I guess, you’re for doing a background check on prospective car buyers for being drunk and prohibiting them from buying a car (new or used).

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      yup, it prevents looking at the causes of violence. one major cause of violence of all sorts is our policy of prohibition. last time we ended prohibition the murder rate fell 99% but as long as people blame guns no one will ever have to consider that, lets look at prohibition as a major public health issue