By Healthy Gen Co:LAB
This week, a gunman opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 and injuring more than 500, making it the most deadly mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Words like “carnage,” “unimaginable,” and “nightmare” come to mind.
Conservative leaders claim that this is not the time to deliberate on policy solutions to gun violence. Further, current White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that “laws that won’t create or stop these type of [shootings] from happening.” Despite these protestations, our collective mourning should fuel us to find effective solutions to the problem of gun violence and mass shootings. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated on Monday:
“We cannot banish evil in the Earth. Congress can’t do that; the president can’t do that. What Congress can do, what Congress must do, is pass laws to keep our citizens safe.”
Following the mass shooting in Orlando at Pulse nightclub last year, several calls were made to describe mass shootings as a public health crisis or emergency. As we try to make sense of what happened and reflect the next steps to prevent such a tragedy, we must consult the knowledge and research we have available. Unfortunately, research on gun violence in the past twenty years has been scarce due to the Dickey Amendment, which prevents the CDC from using funding “to advocate or promote gun control,” after which, the “real blow was delivered by a succession of…CDC directors, who decided that the safest course bureaucratically was simply to zero out the whole field” of research on gun violence. This lack of research is distressing for so many reasons: moral, practical, and precautionary.
It must be noted that the tallies of deaths and injuries do not adequately sum the damage done by gun violence. The resulting trauma impacts the lives and health of families, friends, neighbors, and communities for generations. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder results in “debilitating social and cognitive impacts including anger, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression.” The distribution of traumatic psychological impact is far from equitable: “neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence tend to be poor, and therefore are more likely to be cut off from mental-health services than wealthier ones.” The health impact and cost of trauma are immense. Gun violence, committed both in mass shootings and in the day-to-day violence done across the country, is part of that trauma.
For an introduction to information and research on the intersection of health equity, public health, and gun violence, please see our collected resources below.
Gun Violence and Health Equity
“Gun Violence,” APHA
“Gun Violence is a Health Equity Issue,” by Kristin Jones, The Colorado Trust
“Putting gun violence, health disparities in context of racism,” by Troy Parks, AMA Wire
Gun Violence and Public Health
“Gun violence is an epidemic. It is time for a public health response,” by Georges Benjamin, The Guardian
“Gun Violence Should Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis, Study Says,” by Laura Wagner, NPR
Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms, Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish. American Journal of Public Health 2015, 105:2, 240–249.
“The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States,” Garen J. Wintemute, Annual Review of Public Health 2015 36:1, 5-19
Restrictions on Gun Research
“Amid an epidemic of violence, U.S. Congress is still blocking research on gun deaths,” by Jennifer Yang, the Toronto Star
“Fight the silencing of gun research,” by David Hemenway, Nature
“Stop the Suppression of Gun Research,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
On Federal and Washington State Legislation
“Massacre blunts momentum of gun silencer bill,” by John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle, and Burgess Everett, Politico
“Police utilize extreme risk protection orders,” by Emily Gillespie, The Columbian
“The Gun-Control Movement Is Learning How to Win,” David Frum, The Atlantic
Washington State 2017 Policy Agenda, Alliance for Gun Responsibility
“How much can really be done on gun control locally?” by Lilly Fowler and David Kroman, Crosscut
“The Gun Legislation With the Best Chance of Passing Congress,” by Russell Berman, The Atlantic