74 and Counting. . . Why Gun Control is a Public Health Issue

Screen_Shot_2014-06-10_at_1.48.46_PMThis map shows every school shooting since December 14, 2012–the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Don’t bother counting — there are 74. The only reason the map won’t break 100 in the next two months is that school is out for the summer.

Certainly, this is a moral issue. And a political issue. But first and foremost, the issue of gun control is a public health issue.

As the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research notes: “More than 31,000 people a year in the United States die from gunshot wounds. Because victims are disproportionately young, gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature mortality in the U.S. In addition to these deaths, in 2010, there were an estimated 337,960 non-fatal violent crimes committed with guns,2 and 73,505 persons treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds.” Other fun facts from the Center:

  • The homicide rate in the U.S. is seven times higher than the combined homicide rate of 22 other high-income countries because the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 20  times greater than in these other high-income countries.
  • Firearm-related deaths and injuries resulted in medical and lost productivity expenses of about $32 billion in 2005
  • The average annual cost of violent crime is more than $1,300 for every adult and child. Because much of these costs are due to lowering residential property values, violent crime greatly reduces tax revenues that local governments need to address a broad array of citizens’ needs. The direct annual cost of violent crime to all levels of government was estimated to be $325 per resident.

And yet the fact that attorney general nominee Vivek H. Murthy’s confirmation has veered off track (and may never get back on track) because he had the nerve–the sheer nerve–to suggest that guns are a public health issue sickens me and makes me wonder (as I do more and more these days when I listen to the news or read the headlines) if I’m living in some kind of Alice-in-Wonderland parallel world.

Nothing brought it home more than yesterday’s column in the Washington Post by  two fathers who did not receive handmade cards and yet-another-tie for Father’s Day. That’s because their little boys are dead; gunned down in the Sandy Hook massacre.

In their column, the men urge us all to get off our proverbial butts and push back against the National Rifle Association and the politicians blocking common sense reforms that could help prevent–not entirely prevent–horrors like Sandy Hook, and Columbine, and Virginia Tech,  Reynolds High School,  UC-Santa Barbara and on and on and on.

As they write: “Look at your children, your beautiful, growing, pesky children who bring you so much joy and sometimes cause you so much heartache, and ask yourself — really ask yourself — this: Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe? Because the answer to that question, if we all answer honestly, clearly is no.”

As President Obama said in an interview a few weeks ago: We should be ashamed for not acting on gun control.

I know I am.


You can read my blog on Sandy Hook here.



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