Doctors For America says that gun violence is a public health crisis in the U.S. Here’s why.
ARE GUNS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
DEATH FROM GUNS VS. DEATH FROM BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer will claim about 40,450 victims this year; the number of gun deaths will reach more than 33,000 —more than 80% of the breast cancer total. Which makes gun violence a public health issue of epidemic proportions.
American Public Health Association (APHA) reports that gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S. Because gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, APHA feels we must do more research on gun injuries and violence. We should also do more to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands, and expand access to mental health services to those who need it most.
Guns greatly increase violent deaths, because they make killing so easy—all you have to do is move one finger less than one inch.
• In 2014, 33,636 people were killed by guns —60% suicides, 35% homicides, and 5% accidents. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 20 times higher for all people and 43 times higher for 15- to 24-year-olds than in all other industrialized nations.
• U.S. kids under 15 are 12 times more likely to be killed by a gun than kids in any other industrialized country. U.S. kids 5 to 14 are 17 times more likely to be killed by a gun, 10 times more likely to die by suicide, and 9 times more likely to die from accidental gun injury than kids in other industrialized nations.
• More American children 5 to 14 years old who live in states with a higher percentage of guns are killed by gunfire than are children who live in states with a lower percentage.
• A gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of completed suicide and homicide in the home. In states with more guns, people of all ages are more likely to be killed, especially with handguns. The presence of guns in the home is more related to gun deaths than poverty, urbanization, or crime.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
How much money does the government spend on breast cancer research? In 2007, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent $572.4 million on breast cancer research, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent an additional $705 million—a grand total of $1.27 billion.
How much money does the government spend on gun violence research? None. Zip. Nada.
In 1996, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This was the precise amount the agency had spent the previous year on firearm injury research. To make the message clearer, these words were added: “..none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Furthermore, a number of individual states are trying to prevent health care practitioners from discussing or recording information about firearm safety with patients.
HOW TO MAKE THINGS BETTER
Doctors For America makes five important recommendations:
1. Strengthen the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 by mandating background checks on all gun sales. Re-institute waiting periods. Require all states to provide the National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) with the information needed to do background checks.
2. Renew and strengthen the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) of 1994, a federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms defined as assault weapons, as well as ammunition magazines it defined as “large capacity.” This law expired in 2004 and has not been re-enacted.
3. Increase access to mental health services. Research indicates that violent behavior caused by mental illness accounts for only 4% to 5% of violence, but this number can be even further reduced. Research also shows that mentally ill people are far less likely to commit acts of violence if they are engaged in proper mental health treatment.
4. Promote gun safety education by health care professionals. More than 1/3 of American homes have guns. Most gun owners keep their guns unlocked and loaded. If there are guns in the home, the risk of injury is greatly reduced if they are stored unloaded and locked away, with ammunition stored in another locked place. Health care professionals should be counseling patients on safe gun ownership and practices.
5. Reverse current legislation barriers to research on solutions to gun violence. (Again, current legislation states: “...none of the funds...for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to...promote gun control.”)
FIVE CITIZEN GROUPS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE
• Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: www.bradycampaign.org
• Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: csgv.org
• Everytown for Gun Safety: everytown.org
• Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America: momsdemandaction.org
• Women Against Gun Violence: wagv.org/get-involved
For more information:
• s3.amazonaws.com - Basis for article
• apha.org - APHA on gun violence—sources cited
• cdc.gov - Gov. source for facts and stats
• wikipedia.org - Brady Act, details
• nytimes.com - Info comparing U.S. gun-related deaths compared to other Western democracies
• smartgunlaws.org - Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, facts and stats from 2010
• theguardian.com - 2011 U.S. gun crimes, state by state
• wikipedia.org - Gun violence in the US
• wikipedia.org - Federal Assault Weapons Ban
• google.com - Google ref: Breast cancer deaths expected for 2016
• google.com - Google ref: Govt. money spent on breast cancer research in 2007
• jamanetwork.com - Journal of American Medical Assn. 2/2013 article: Silencing the Science on Gun Research