Government, Gun Violence, Public Health

Yes, more gun violence

November 10, 2017

Surely, there is room for compromise

On Sunday, Nov. 5, another peaceful, normal routine was disrupted, and a place of solace was turned into a killing field. Predictably, some people again called for better regulation, while others said that “the problem is not the gun; it’s the mentally ill person carrying it.”

In Sutherland, Texas, regulations failed us, and there seems to be recognition that there were rules that should have been followed, and had they been, the shooter would not have had the arsenal he had with him and elsewhere. The man who took 26 lives and ruined scores of others never should have been permitted to buy guns. An excellent New York Times analysis on Nov. 7 used global data to describe why the U.S. compares unfavorably to other countries on gun violence. One quirk consistently puzzles our country’s fans and critics alike, the article notes. Why does America experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

 The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns. … Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.
The New York Times

We need good sense, a willingness to compromise and good science to guide us. It’s not reasonable to ban all guns. That’s just not going to happen. We should find a way to improve regulation, guided by evidence.

On Oct. 6, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, a physician who led the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, himself an NRA member, wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that we are caught in a cycle we must break. Rosenberg says that as more people are killed by guns, as there are more and deadlier mass shootings, people become more afraid, and they buy more guns. Today the CDC is prevented from undertaking research about interventions that could safely and effectively prevent gun violence. They could fund such research until the Dickey amendment prevented them from doing so. Even Dickey realized the amendment was wrong. Rosenberg argues that the CDC should be permitted to undertake such research. I agree. Science and evidence are important here. Stopping gun violence will take a multi-strategy approach to make a difference. Reducing the number of guns is a critical step. But so is helping people to find alternatives to violence, putting the appropriate policies and regulations into place, assuring and monitoring enforcement, and other actions. It is not going to be one thing alone. But we also must admit we have a problem and have the will to do something about it.

We must break the cycle.

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 of Global Public Health.

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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.