Should Gun Violence be Treated as a Public Health Issue? (Poll)

In the wake of a series of mass shootings across the country, doctors and other medical experts want to refocus the firearms discussion as a health problem. Is this a sensible approach?

"We have a public health issue to discuss. Do we wait for the next outbreak or is there something we can do to prevent it?"

That quote came from Dr. Stephen Hargarten, emergency medicine chief at Froedtert Hospital and director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It appeared in an Associated Press article on the Huffington Post on Aug. 11, two days before three people, including the gunman, were killed near Texas A&M University.

About three weeks before the quote was published, a gunman in Aurora, Colo., killed 12 people and injured 58 at a midnight movie screening. About two weeks after that incident, seven people were killed when a man opened fire in a Sikkh temple outside Milwaukee. Hargarten, a gun violence expert, treated some of the victims of that shooting, the AP reported.

Now Hargarten and others in the medical community are advocating taking a public health approach to try to curb the problem of gun violence, the report stated.

Although not a new approach, the idea of treating gun violence as a health issue is similar to how "the highway safety measures, product changes and driving laws that slashed deaths from car crashes decades ago, even as the number of vehicles on the road rose," the report stated.

Can a health response succeed where legal and political measures have failed? Maybe. Yet as a country, we have the maturity of a tantrum-prone 6-year-old when it comes to discussing the issues. Guns and gun violence are part of the holy trinity of social issues—along with sex education and marijuana legalization—that U.S. citizens seem genetically incapable of introducing to the public discourse with any type of sophistication. Think of it as sex, drugs and lock and load. Eventually a gun debate, no matter how good its intentions are in the beginning, becomes nothing more than straw-man arguments, defensive posturing and all-or-nothing fear-mongering.

And that's F-word at the heart of any gun debate. Not "freedom," but "fear." Fear of being defenseless. Fear of having freedom stripped away. Fear of what the wrong people will do with their freedom. With all that fear, no wonder everyone's scared to talk calmly about it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is a health-issue approach to gun violence worth pursuing? If not, what solutions to the problem should the U.S. investigate? Take our poll and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.


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Gunther Livingston August 20, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Dick- If I may, Good luck with your endeavors. Watch out for the windmills...
Gunther Livingston August 20, 2012 at 08:45 PM
They should arrest anyone who uses a gun to commit a crime. They should penalize them more than if they used a knife or a rock. What they shouldn't do as a "preemptive strike" is hassle the remaining 99.8% of gun owners. We just want simple ownership laws that allow us to drive to the range without being hassled by each municipality we pass through with their complex and confusing laws. Making it a medical issue is just an attempt to end-around a Constitutional Amendment the founding father thought was so important that they put it at number 2. Something like: "[T]he people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed..." We could also try to make gun ownership a religious issue, I guess - " Jesus had no guns..."
Mokena Resident September 10, 2012 at 01:43 AM
An extremely intelligent post Gunther. More guns, less crime.
Mokena Resident September 10, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Legalizing all drugs would solve this problem by taking the power out of the cartels hands. It would also kill off the people who are dumb enough to use them quicker. I'm all for it.
Edward Ronkowski October 15, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Peer reviewed academic studies show that when states pass laws that allow citizens to carry concealed firearms, violent crime and gun deaths go down from what was expected. Illinois is the only state to not have any form of carry law. You want violent crime to go down. Pass a carry concealed law like the other 49 states that have it.


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