EDITORIAL: We must attack issue at its source

There is more to gun violence than highly-publicized mass murders

It can go without saying that the United States has a serious gun-violence issue. Every year more than 36,000 people are killed by gunshots in this country, which makes gun violence one of the leading causes of death.

In discussing the issue of gun violence in America, people’s minds tend nowadays to revert almost automatically to thinking about mass shootings such as Parkland, Las Vegas and the most recent Thousand Oaks incident. But the truth is that there is a lot more to America’s gun-violence issue than these highly-publicized mass murders, and attempting to get at solving the issue by using those highly-publicized mass murders as a talking point is not doing us any good. 

In other words, we are having the wrong conversations. To solve the gun-violence issue, we should be talking about correcting the fundamental and foundational issues that might lead to incidents of gun violence, rather than focusing nearly all of our attention on the guns themselves. 

It then seems reasonable to say that a deeper focus on the mental health of individuals as well as the fostering of good environments for children from a young age — environments that give kids access to opportunity and promote community togetherness — could lead to very effective tactics on reducing gun violence and potentially eradicating it. 

Of the aforementioned approximately 36,000 deaths by gunshot in the U.S. each year, about two-thirds are suicides, and suicide attempts are much more likely to be successful if a gun is involved. A study published in the Journal of Surgical Research found that states with weaker gun laws have more gun-related suicide attempts, which tend to be associated with higher mortality. Considering that two-thirds of gun deaths in U.S. are suicides, more guns in homes would presumably correlate with more gun-related deaths. In that case, more laws restricting gun ownership could help mitigate the problem, but it is still a fundamentally human issue — one based in mental health. This is exemplified by the fact that people will attempt suicide at the same rate with or without access to a gun. 

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics did a survey of prison inmates who were in possession of guns at the time of their crime, and found that in most states approximately 60 percent of the inmates illegally procured the gun they used. So when it comes to correcting the issue in communities that experience high rates of gun violence, more stringent gun laws clearly do not fully address the issue. Laws addressing gun-show loops can prevent people from buying guns legally and then selling them on the black market, but again, the root of the issue must be pinpointed and attacked. In terms of states with communities that experience high rates of gun violence, it seems fostering a positive environment for people — specifically kids — who are prone to joining in on gun violence to grow and develop on the right path as people is where the focus should lie. In other words, community building and organizing is just as important as gun laws if we are to actually solve the issue. 

In 1996, with the support of the National Rifle Association, the Dickey Amendment was passed. As a result of this amendment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were barred from using funds "to advocate or promote gun control." Though the bill did not ban gun-violence research, between 1996 and 2013 CDC funding for research on the subject dropped by 96 percent. Recently though, there has been a surge in research on the issue — growing from fewer than 90 annual publications in 2010 to 150 in 2014. This is a good start, but more must be done. Definitive research on how to effectively address America’s gun-violence issue at the source is the answer. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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