Gun Violence, Public Health

Do we have the resolve to control guns?

December 17, 2012

Tragedy strikes another school

Who does not weep for the lost children of Newtown, Connecticut and the many lives changed forever by the violence that befell the town last Friday? Can anyone not be angry that a disturbed young man stormed a school and killed 26 people, including 20 young children who should have had their lives ahead of them? Tears and anger may provide catharsis, but they won’t prevent the next rampage.

I agree with President Obama when he said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” As he said, we are not doing enough. Gun violence is a public health problem. Deaths from guns are as preventable as deaths from tobacco use. It took courage and tenacity for leaders to stand up to big tobacco. It will take perhaps even more leadership to resist the temptation to fall back on platitudes about the rights of Americans to bear arms. Why should anyone have the right to walk into a school, movie theater or mall with an AR-15 and begin shooting?

Shortage of evidence on best prevention strategies

Ironically, although there are millions of gun transactions every year, there is a shortage of data regarding what strategies work best to prevent gun violence. Here’s an excerpt from a 2002-2003 review by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, on which I serve. All the numbers would be higher today.

An estimated 24.3% of the 1,430,693 violent crimes (murder, aggravated assault, rape and robbery) committed in the United States in 1999 were committed with a firearm (2). In the early 1990s, rates of firearms-related homicide, suicide, and unintentional death in the United States exceeded those of 25 other high-income nations (i.e., 1992 gross national product U.S. $8,356 per capita) for which data are available (3). In 1994, the estimated lifetime medical cost of all firearms injuries in the United States was $2.3 billion (4).

While we should act to limit access to certain kinds of guns now, more research is needed to determine the most effective ways to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

President Obama is right. We can do better. I’ve signed the petition posted to the White House website. Consider signing. Barbara




More and more strict laws and their proper implementation at large could prevent such tragedies.

Barbara Rimer


Jill, as you point out, injury prevention, mental health services and gun control all are inter-related. We definitely can and should do better. Barbara

Barbara Rimer


Hey Aimee, good to hear from you and thanks. Hope you are doing great. So glad you signed the petition. And happy holidays! Barbara

Aimee Woods


Barbara, thanks for posting about this. Signed the petition too. Happy Holidays!

Jill Simmerman


Gun control, mental health services, and injury prevention all need to be addressed. Mr. President and members of Congress, I demand better.

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.