Massacres with firearms, a public health crisis

It is still not known what motivated Salvador Ramos, 18, to barricade himself in a classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, and shoot at gunpoint, killing 19 children and two teachers. What is known is that as soon as he reached the age of majority he was able to buy firearms. Ramos died of a police shot.

The Uvalde massacre is the second to shake the country in 10 days, after the tragedy in Buffalo, New York. And it is the worst in the history of the United States, after the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, in 2012, in which 20 children died; and Columbine, in 1999, when 12 students and a teacher were killed.

President Joe Biden, in a message to the nation on the day of the tragedy, lashed out at the firearms industry, as centrally responsible for these tragedies, and made a desperate call for greater gun control. An effort by specialists, politicians and activists that has been going on for decades.

Gun violence, which encompasses massacres and individual acts, kills 38,000 people and injures 85,000 each year in the United States.

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines gun violence as a public health crisis. “The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply embedded in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensure our families and communities are safe. We must place a renewed emphasis on improving research on gun violence and injuries.”

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The control of the carrying of weapons is one of the most powerful debates, emphasizes the entity.

Before the Uvalde massacre, so far in 2022 there had already been, at the national level, 77 incidents with firearms in school spaces, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries.

The APHA shows with data how the burden of gun violence in the United States far exceeds that of other countries:

  • Of all firearm deaths in 2019 in nearly two dozen high-income, high-population countries, including Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK, 82% occur in the US, and 91% of children killed by firearms in this group of nations are Americans.
  • In the United States, gun violence affects people of all ages and races, but has a disproportionate impact on young adultsmen, and racial/ethnic minorities.
  • Among US residents ages 15 to 24, homicide is the leading cause of death among non-Hispanic blacks, second among Hispanics, and fourth among Hispanics. non-Hispanic whites.
  • While most gun violence does not involve a mass shooting, there were 418 mass shootings in 2019 alone, killing 464 people and injuring 1,710 others.
  • Gun violence costs the US $280 billion a year.
  • The societal costs of assault firearm injuries include job loss, medical/mental health care, emergency care, transportation, law enforcement/criminal justice activities, insurance claim processing, employer costs, and decreased quality of life.

The paradox is that gun violence is preventable.

What can be done?

A public health approach to preventing gun violence recognizes that violence is contagious and can become an epidemic within a society.

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Primary prevention involves the use of basic public health activities to interrupt the transmission of violence: conduct surveillance to track firearm-related deaths and injuries, obtain information on the causes of armed violence and evaluate the impact of interventions; identify risk and factors associated with gun violence (for example, poverty and depression)

Also put in place protective factors against gun violence, for example, community interventions, a young person’s access to a trusted adult, reduce risk factors and build resilience, among other strategies.

It is important to note that prevention does not require predicting who will be violent. As well as air safety regulations is to make air travel safer for everyone, common sense steps to prevent gun violence make communities safer for everyone.

To improve the nation’s public health response to gun violence, according to the APHA, the following are necessary:

Continuous Surveillance. In fiscal year 2020, Congress awarded $23.5 million to the National Violent Death Reporting System to fund violence policing in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. This, experts say, will provide a more complete picture of gun violence in the U.S.

More research. Various laws have restricted federally funded research related to gun violenceas well as access to comprehensive firearms data, which has resulted in a significant gap in available research on the causes of gun violence. For example: there is hardly any credible evidence that right-to-carry laws increase or decrease violent crime; almost no empirical evidence to support dozens of violence prevention programs for children; and scant data on the link between gun policy and suicide.

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A positive fact: Congress provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health a total of $25 million in fiscal year 2021 for research on the prevention of armed violence.

Gun policies based on common sense. APHA supports requiring criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, including those sold at gun shows and over the Internet. At the moment, Private firearms sellers are exempt from conducting criminal background checks on buyers at gun shows, giving criminals but also people with mental health conditions access to guns.

APHA and other academic entities also support reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, which expired in 2004.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). ERPOs allow family members or law enforcement to file petitions with a judge to temporarily remove a firearm from a person believed to be at risk of harm to himself or herself others. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that authorize courts to issue an ERPO.

Incentivizing more states to enact ERPO laws could prevent more gun violence, like the one that just killed 19 children and two teachers in Texas.

Sources: APHA, APA, CDC, Congressional Archives.

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