Public health advocates can agree that shootings are a huge health issue for the more than 33,000 victims of gun violence in 2014 alone. But gun violence also indicates that the shooter has a health problem, according to gun violence researchers.
In front of a packed Annual Meeting crowd, advocates from the Brady Center and its Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as public health advocates gathered to discuss “The Tipping Point: Activating a Public Health Movement to Address Gun Violence.” The tools to prevent gun violence are already in place, but much work still needs to be done, as 11 children are killed with a gun every day in the U.S., said presenter David Hemenway, professor of health policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
At the end of the day, violence begets violence, noted epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, founder and executive director of Cure Violence, but communities can do their parts to mitigate that violence. However, it’ll mean looking at gun violence in new ways — as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, he said.
“Criminal justice reform won’t be enough,” Slutkin said. “(We need to) go harder at prevention, harder at understanding, harder at care.”
The session touched on many points that the Brady Campaign has been touting for years, including at its recent National Summit with APHA in Washington, D.C. Dan Gross, Brady’s president, led the charge on Brady’s three key points: finish the job of expanding “lifesaving Brady background checks” to all gun sales in the country; stop bad apple gun dealers; and ASK (Asking Saves Kids, which promotes the simple idea of asking about unlocked guns in the home of a child’s friend).
Those small steps, Gross noted, will make a big impact on reducing gun violence.
Attitudes influenced by the gun lobby are another obstacle to gun violence prevention. In 2004, 42 percent of Americans believed a gun made a home safer. By 2014, that number jumped to 63 percent, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
But the tide is turning, Gross suggested. In pop culture and media, there is more pressure to protect American lives from gun violence. Even Kim Kardashian has gotten in on the action. These are signs to be hopeful about, Gross said.
“It’s all manifesting itself in real progress and real change,” he added, “but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Visit APHA and the Brady Campaign to learn more about gun violence prevention.
Above, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, left, and Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, at last week's Brady & APHA National Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy APHA Flickr