In the wake of recent mass shootings, some public health officials are calling for gun violence to be examined as a “social disease” to use science as a way to restructure gun laws to avert the tragic events.
According to USA Today, doctors involved in violence prevention research say that by examining firearm violence statistics in a manner similar to highway safety statistics U.S. policymakers could implement gun laws that would reduce violence.
The article says the researchers want to look at the following:
• “Host” factors: What makes someone more likely to shoot, or someone more likely to be a victim. One recent study found firearm owners were more likely than those with no firearms at home to binge drink or to drink and drive, and other research has tied alcohol and gun violence. That suggests that people with driving under the influence convictions should be barred from buying a gun…
• Product features: Which firearms are most dangerous and why. Manufacturers could be pressured to fix design defects that let guns go off accidentally, and to add technology that allows only the owner of the gun to fire it (many police officers and others are shot with their own weapons). Bans on assault weapons and multiple magazines that allow rapid and repeat firing are other possible steps.
• “Environmental” risk factors: What conditions allow or contribute to shootings. Gun shops must do background checks and refuse to sell firearms to people convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, but those convicted of other violent misdemeanors can buy whatever they want. The rules also don’t apply to private sales, which one study estimates as 40% of the market.
• Disease patterns, observing how a problem spreads. Gun ownership — a precursor to gun violence — can spread “much like an infectious disease circulates,” said Daniel Webster, a health policy expert and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore.
In discussing gun ownership as if it were a disease, the article follows the trend of many news stories that have appeared since the recent shooting tragedies which portray gun-ownership as an oddity.