Monday, October 5, 2015

Wanted: A new approach to gun violence

From the NY Times Facebook post: "The passivity of politicians has simply enabled mass shootings. It's time for a new approach to gun violence."

Columnist Nicholas Kristof supports a public health approach. Snippets follow. (Kristof cites the alarming statistics in the column.)

What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them.

Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.

One problem is that the gun lobby has largely blocked research on making guns safer. Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies and 212 for cholera — and only three for firearms injuries.

The gun lobby argues that the problem isn’t firearms; it’s crazy people. Yes, America’s mental health system is a disgrace. But to me, it seems that we’re all crazy if we as a country can’t take modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield.

Intellectually, I agree with Kristof's arguments. (He is not the first to make them.) He is absolutely right. If electric toasters electrocuted 30,000 Americans each year we would fix the toasters almost overnight.

The problem is so long as you have the same cast of characters in DC responding to the gun lobby, the public health arguments will not in themselves lead to effective action. We need to vote pro-gun candidates out of office.

See the post here today on President Obama's suggested action.

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