Future Health - 3/7/22

Delivering care in the new virtual world… 

On Guns and Gun Violence – First, the topic of guns and gun violence is fraught with political peril – and, I realize it! Second, I grew up in North Dakota where owning a gun was a way of life. Third, the focus of our “way of life” was on hunting birds, deer, and such – not, on hunting humans. Fourth, I did my residency in The Bronx where the opposite was the way of life and hunting humans were far more common. So, as you can see from the outset, I’ve been conditioned with certain experiences that serve as a backdrop to my observations.

Also, as a person who was trained to use science, I’ve turned to the “what works?” with “good results?” approach to problem-solving. So, I thought it might be useful to look at some of the data points we should consider in any discussion related to guns and gun violence. I turned to two reputable organizations for their data on the topic. The American Public Health Association provides regular updates on the state of gun violence in the USA. This data was augmented by my review of the annual Pew Research Center updates on attitudes toward gun policy options.  In addition to the Pew research, here are some data points to consider:

  • Four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 30% who say they personally own one,according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2021.
  • Based on the political affiliations of the respondents, there are clear differences in gun ownership rates with 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents indicating they own a gun compared to 20% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. But, it’s not just political party affiliation. To be clear, gender, geography, and other factors are also at play related to gun ownership.
  • Among the nearly two dozen countries we are often compared to including such places as Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, 82% of the deaths overall among adults and 91% of all children deaths (ages 0-14) were located in the USA.
  • Each year, more than 39,000 people in the USA die from gun violence, and tens of thousands more suffer non-fatal gun injuries. By comparison, in 2021 there were just over 38,000 deaths from automobile accidents, but, we do insist on everyone wearing seat belts otherwise it would be much higher…
  • Guns are the leading method of suicide in the USA, accounting for half of all suicide deaths. Furthermore, the use of firearms in suicide results in death 85% of the time, compared to just 3% for other methods such as drug overdose. Why is this important? Because almost 90% of people who attempt suicide once do not attempt suicide a second time.
  • Finally, a recent poll revealed that 84% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members, AND 90% of non-gun owners support a requirement for universal background-check system for all gun sales. Hmmm – that means that bipartisan support for effective gun legislation should be very feasible. So, why is it not happening? Oh, that’s right – the NRA is opposed!
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