Another view: gun violence is a public health crisis

As the murdered children of Uvalde are laid to rest this week, our nation must muster the courage and political will to treat the rise in gun violence and mass shootings as an acute public health crisis.

When car crashes claimed large numbers of lives, government and industry funded research to make cars safer, which led to seat belts, airbags and other safety devices now standard.

Public health studies linking smoking to cancer, lung disease and other health risks have changed smoking habits. A subsequent lawsuit held the tobacco companies liable for concealing the health risks associated with their products.

The Second Amendment protects gun ownership in America. The United States Supreme Court upheld the individual right to own guns in the Heller decision. In that same decision, Judge Antonin Scalia also noted that “like most rights, the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and that “the right was not a right to hold and wear a weapon of any kind, in any way and for any reason”. objective.”

Federal dollars are slowly returning to gun violence research after more than two decades of inactivity due to fears that scientific study could lead to gun control. But gun violence research is funded at about $63 per life lost, making it the second most overlooked cause of death, according to a 2017 estimate from the Journal of the American Medical Association. While mass school shootings rightly highlight the need for school safety, more young people have died from gun violence of all kinds than car crashes, which come second, and drug overdoses, who come third.

But as a nation, we need to know more about gun violence. A research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that firearm-related deaths increased by 13% between 2019 and 2020, with the biggest jump – an astonishing 30% – occurring among those under the age of 19. And of the 45,222 gun violence deaths in 2020, about 10% were children and adolescents.

But here comes the shock. About 65% of adult gun deaths were suicides and 30% were homicides. However, among teens and young Americans, those percentages are roughly reversed, according to statistics.

The nation needs to increase investment in mental health and enact sensible gun safety regulations at the federal and state levels. The public supports background checks, age limits on gun purchases, red flag laws and mandatory gun owner training. Above all, the nation must break the cycle of violence, and a more rigorous examination of gun deaths and injuries as a public health crisis will allow researchers to better determine how to prevent such deaths.

Families and communities ravaged by gun violence are forever shattered, and the rest of us share their grief and fear that a gunman could inflict carnage on our families and friends. As a society, we must not allow this carnage to continue.


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