Thompson: Gun violence should be seen as a public health issue

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Three hundred fourteen. The number of mass shootings in America in 2018 as of Nov. 19. Gun violence kills more than 38,000 people a year and causes over twice that amount in injuries, around 89,000. This preventable issue is an enormous strain on healthcare resources and workers as well.

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Public health is a broad field focusing on population health in many different environments. Take the recent outbreak of E. Coli in romaine lettuce. Once the threat was identified, we want to limit the amount of people exposed to the disease.

In situations like this, it’s easy to point to the source and make a definitive statement on how to prevent further spread: Don’t eat romaine lettuce. Gun violence is a disease, and despite the evidence, we can’t agree on the solution.

We must remember that gun violence is a deeply rooted and complex issue prevailing in American culture. Mental health, policy change, and community resilience are all pieces of the puzzle.

If we are to make any progress on gun violence and prevention, there must be money made available for research purposes. We must also open up the lines of communication between providers and patients on gun safety.

In response to a 1993 research paper which found that keeping a gun in the house was more dangerous than not having one at all, the National Rifle Association lobbied for legislation which would ensure this sort of information would not be published again.

The result was Congress passing the Dickey Amendment of 1996. This did not necessarily ban research on gun violence, however it severely limited the funding available for such purposes.

Recently, the American College of Physicians published a paper which stated that preventing gun violence should include the following: a ban on semiautomatic firearms and high capacity magazines, licensing and permitting requirements, improved reporting to NICS and restrictions on concealed carry.

The NRA took to Twitter to attack the ACP on the grounds that members of the medical community needed to “stay in their lane” with regards to answering questions and providing information to patients on gun safety.

The NRA considers this to be a form of medical providers pushing their “political agenda.” 

The account @ThisIsOurLane was created in response, and its main purpose is to give the medical community a voice in the discussion of gun violence.

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The NRA wants us to think that owning more guns means we will be safer. How can we be the hero who saves the day if we’re not allowed to own a gun, but the bad guys can? They are using fear-mongering to sell their product.

I don’t make this statement lightly.

In a five-year study from 2007-2011, there were roughly six million nonfatal violent crimes occurring each year, and data from the National Crime Victimization Survey show that victims did not defend with a gun in 99.2 percent of these incidents – this in a country with 300 million guns in civilian hands.

More guns will not make us safer. In Japan, they’ve outlawed handguns for citizens and they have one of the lowest rates of gun violence, with just six deaths occurring in 2014 compared to 33,599 in the United States.

TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie is expanding his companies generosity. They will be the first company to donate $5 million to organizations working on the ground to end gun violence, which will be the single largest corporate gift to end gun violence in the history of the United States.

TOMS understands that universal background checks are imperative to ending gun violence. If you visit their website, in under 30 seconds you can fill out a form that will send a postcard to your representative urging them to support such legislation.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison