U.S. gun violence addressed as a public health issue

Published on Sunday, 4 November 2018 20:39
Written by The Florida Times-Union

Life itself is the greatest human right.

Therefore, it’s interesting to see gun violence addressed as a public health issue.

Amnesty International did just that in a new report, “In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis.”

The United States has the highest gun ownership in the world, yet this country does a poor job of keeping guns away from dangerous people.

For instance, researchers from Johns Hopkins University calculate the annual cost of gun assaults at $3 billion. Also, 8,300 children are treated each year for gunshot injuries.

“The right to live free from violence, discrimination and fear has been superseded by a sense of entitlement to own a practically unlimited array of deadly weapons without sufficient regulations on their acquisition, possession and use,” the report stated.

Let’s make it clear. The United States is rare in giving gun ownership constitutional protection. But the Supreme Court also has specified that many restrictions are consistent with the First Amendment. The American people get that.

Other proposals run into major differences between gun owners and non-gun owners. For instance, banning assault weapons is supported by 77 percent of non-gun owners and 48 percent of gun owners. One difficulty here is in terminology.

Another proposal is to require an extra level of time and background checks for military-style weapons as is already done with machine guns.

One factor that often is overlooked is the role of guns in suicides. In 2016, 38,658 Americans died by gun violence but 22,938 were suicides.

Support is growing for court orders to temporarily remove guns from seriously depressed people. Another solution is to publicize the importance of safely storing guns.

Universal background checks are not only popular, but states that require them have significantly less firearms trafficking, substantially fewer firearm-related suicides, 47 percent fewer women killed in domestic violence disputes and 53 percent fewer police officers killed on duty, reports Amnesty International.

Children are tragically affected by gun violence. In 2016, 1,637 children died from guns: 862 suicides and 633 homicides. Another 104 children died in firearm-related accidents.

Here again, the United States has the highest rate of firearm-related deaths of children. Yet 23 states do not have laws requiring that guns be safely stored away from children.

Only six states require a license or permit to purchase all firearms and only six states require some form of training before purchasing a firearm.

In 39 states there are no laws requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement.

As a public health crisis, more research could help find those solutions that are both effective and fall within the Second Amendment. However, research has been stifled by federal regulations that saw research into gun violence as an indirect attempt to ban guns.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Sunday, 4 November 2018 20:39. Updated: Sunday, 4 November 2018 20:42.