Civil Discourse Now

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We need peer-reviewed studies of gun violence as health phenomena

Too many people own too many guns in this country. Too few of those people know a damn thing about gun safety. That explains why the mechanism of death for so many people is a firearm.
First, the statistics are not as clear as would be preferable. We know how many people die. Also, a bullet in the head is pretty clear as the reason why John Doe met an early demise. There are statistics to deaths from firearms that we might be able to use to reduce gun violence.
According to a Pew Research Center summary of gun deaths, in “2017, the most recent year for which complete data [are] available, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. according to the [Centers for Disease Control].”
Second, there are only some numbers we can be given. For one thing, Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Congressman, sponsored budget prohibitions, in 1996, as a result of NRA lobbying, that prohibited the CDC from advocating or promoting gun control. Despite President Obama, after Sandy Hook, ordering the CDC to resume funding research on gun violence and prevention, the CDC has not performed any such studies since 1996. Most of the research that has been done has by economists, sociologists, or criminologists. See “Firearms Research”, Scientific American, updated from 496 Nature 412-415 (2013).
This is important because, with nearly 40,000, deaths per year related to something with causes linked to, and obviously affecting, health, we should expect health-related studies. In 2017 approximately sixty percent (60%) of gun deaths were suicides (23,854). Any such studies have been blocked, effectively, by the NRA.
Third, this stifling of facts goes further. Under another set of budget riders called the Tiahrt Amendments, “trace data” collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) cannot be released for use by cities, states, researchers, litigants, and members of the public. To be able to trace availability of guns, from burglaries and thefts of those guns, to subsequent gun deaths would be of help in focusing on how to prevent those deaths. A trace of gun deaths to purchases of guns at gun shows would be of value in closing gun purchase loopholes.
The debate over guns is odd. No other advanced countries experience our numbers of deaths by guns, yet via bans on studies, the NRA can crow there is no proof that particular changes in gun laws would succeed in cutting those numbers.
Too many people have too many guns. If those who favor such broad and unfettered traffic in firearms as beneficial to our society, they should welcome peer-reviewed studies. At the very least, they should be unafraid of the facts. As Lincoln once said, “Let the people know the facts and the country will be safe.”
Such restrictions as those described here should be lifted.

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