Guns and Public Health
Posted by dlende on April 25, 2008
The New England Journal of Medicine has an informative podcast of an interview with David Hemenway on “gun violence in the United States and the likely effects of the Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller.”
Hemenway covers the effect of gun control laws from the public health point of view. He provides a good international perspective, based both on variation in policy and research. One thing I did not know was how the US has become a major supplier of guns to Mexico, Japan and elsewhere–sold here, then imported illegally there. He also describes the impact of major gun control in Australia, where there was a significant reduction in violence post legislation.
The New England Journal of Medicine also provides a full-length editorial, Handgun Violence, Public Health, and the Law, by Gregory Curfman, Stephen Morrissey, and Jeffrey Drazen. Here is the opening: “Firearms were used to kill 30,143 people in the United States in 2005, the most recent year with complete data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 17,002 of these were suicides, 12,352 homicides, and 789 accidental firearm deaths. Nearly half of these deaths occurred in people under the age of 35. When we consider that there were also nearly 70,000 nonfatal injuries from firearms, we are left with the staggering fact that 100,000 men, women, and children were killed or wounded by firearms in the span of just one year. This translates into one death from firearms every 17 minutes and one death or nonfatal injury every 5 minutes. By any standard, this constitutes a serious public health issue that demands a response not only from law enforcement and the courts, but also from the medical community.”
The same issue of NEJM also has a free-access article on this topic, Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health, by Garen Wintemute. Focusing specifically on the Washington DC statute being challenged in the Supreme Court, Wintemute writes, “In 1976, Washington, D.C., took action that was consistent with such evidence. Having previously required that guns be registered, the District prohibited further registration of handguns, outlawed the carrying of concealed guns, and required that guns kept at home be unloaded and either disassembled or locked. These laws worked. Careful analysis linked them to reductions of 25% in gun homicide and 23% in gun suicide, with no parallel decrease (or compensatory increase) in homicide and suicide by other methods and no similar changes in nearby Maryland or Virginia.”