After getting the cold shoulder from the federal government for 17 years, U.S. scientists who study the public health impact of gun-related violence are finally getting a warm embrace. A report issued today by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) lays out a national strategy for firearms research that identifies more than a dozen possible topics.
The report comes 5 months after President Barack Obama announced an end to the ban on public health research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that had been in place since 1996. The White House also asked NRC and IOM to organize a blue ribbon committee of firearms experts, criminologists, and public health scientists, which was charged with surveying the existing literature and coming up with recommendations for future research.
One key need, it says, is simply more and better information on how many guns are in the United States and how often they cause death or injury. “The problem is there just aren’t any data,” committee Chair Alan Leshner told ScienceInsider in a telephone interview. (Leshner is CEO of AAAS, publisher of ScienceInsider.) “Others on the committee may not have been surprised, but I was.”
The best available estimates put firearm-related deaths in the United States at more than 30,000 per year, with twice as many nonfatal injuries. That is the highest rate among industrialized nations. But details about the circumstances of the deaths and injuries, let alone their causes, are often lacking. And the number of guns across the country—both legally and illegally owned—is simply unknown. Political lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association have vigorously fought to prevent such data from being collected by the federal government.
When it comes to reducing gun violence in America, nobody else in the country has anything close to the experience-based perspective from which cops can speak
PoliceOne has scored a major scoop in police journalism by conducting a survey of more than 15,000 law enforcers regarding their thoughts on gun control in America.
These men and women — most of whom actually work the street — have a front row seat to see gun violence in America. They put their lives at risk when they do their jobs, actually coming face-to-face with violent encounters involving firearms.
And when it comes to finding ways to reduce gun violence and large scale shootings, most cops say a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons” isn’t the answer.
More than 91 percent of respondents say it would either have no effect or a negative effect in reducing violent crime. This is an overwhelming response by those whose job it is to actually deal with this issue on the front lines.
Instead, it is interesting to note that armed citizens show up frequently as a deciding factor in reducing the carnage from a mass murder situation; proactive choices dominate over gun and magazine restrictions and bans.
More than 91 percent of respondents support the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who have not been convicted of a felony and/or not been deemed psychologically/medically incapable.
The commercial is an unambiguous appeal to gun owners: A middle-aged hunter, rifle in hand, vows that he will fight to protect the Second Amendment. But in a sensible, father-of-the house tone, he also urges voters to support comprehensive background checks, ”so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can’t buy guns.”
The man behind the advertisement is not known for his kinship with the gun crowd: New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the nation’s fiercest advocate of restrictions on firearms since the December rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to that shooting, Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in a dozen states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over the legislation.
In a telling sign of how much the white-hot demands for gun control have been tempered by political reality, Bloomberg’s commercials make no mention of an assault weapons ban once sought by the White House and its allies, instead focusing on the more achievable goal of universal background checks.
”You don’t want to lose everything in the interest of getting the perfect,” Bloomberg said in an interview, acknowledging his disappointment over the apparent unlikelihood of an assault weapons ban, but insisting he is resolved to push the legislation through at a time when its prospects are uncertain.
“Physicians are interested in [keeping] our patients alive and allowing them to live longer, and part of that has to do with gun violence,” says Dr. William Begg, an emergency room physician in Danbury, Connecticut, who treated victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Rather than encouraging doctors to tell their patients about the well-documented health risks of owning guns, Begg warns that legislation like Putnam’s “makes it easier for health care providers to remain silent for fear of reprisal.”
In the three months since Newtown, state lawmakers around the country have already introduced nine bills aimed at blocking the sharing of gun information in a medical context, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Unlike the controversial legislation that was introduced in Florida last year, known as “docs vs. Glocks,” Putnam’s law would not mete out financial and licensing penalties if a doctor asks about guns. But a recent report from the American College of Surgeons argues that this kind of legislation nonetheless amounts to a gag order. “It is important that the relationship between a physician and a patient not be compromised,” wrote author Alexis Macias.
Columbia pediatrician Deborah Greenhouse suggested in The State that supporters of such legislation were being hypocritical. “They are trying to get Big Government to come in and dictate what we can and cannot say, while at the same time, they are trying to tell Big Government to stay out of their right to own guns,” said Greenhouse, who is president of the S.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Even while gun advocates are still saying that cars kill more people than guns do, in many states* it has become a false and misleading statement, or a pure canard. Nationwide gun deaths will outnumber traffic deaths in just a couple of short years as those streams begin to cross on the charts, but in many gun saturated states they already have crossed.
In the not-so-distant future, if current trends continue, more Americans will die from gun violence than from auto accidents, but the state of Utah is wrestling with the fact that it hit that grisly benchmark a few years ago. And it’s not “bad guys with guns” driving this trend; the vast majority of gun deaths in Utah for the past few years (89 percent in 2011; see chart) were people taking their own lives.
Among them was 14-year-old David Phan, who walked onto the skybridge in front of his junior-high school this past November and, in front of his schoolmates, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His death was one of more than an estimated 500 suicides in Utah in 2012, more than half of which likely involved a firearm. (Utah is one of only five states where gun suicides alone exceed traffic fatalities: Check out our state-by-state map.)
Driving fatalities, another leading cause of preventable death in Utah, hit a historic low in 2011 following a long, downward trend. But gun suicides have been rising.
Do Guns kill more than Cars in your state?
* While writing this I had to go back and correct one thing - initially research seemed to indicate that this was a red state problem, but the chart at Mother Jones seems to indicate that it’s independent of political leanings of any given state. The states leading the charge are hunting states where there are more guns per capita among the population, or states with high saturation urban pockets, so it’s more likely tied to gun saturation than political or ideological leans of states.
States with more gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths, according to a new study released Wednesday by Boston Children’s Hospital.
The leader investigator behind the research hopes the findings will drive legislators to pass gun reform across the country and increase federal funding to research on gun laws and violence. However, at least one critic argues that the study fails to take into account several important factors such as the types of laws, enforcement of laws, and gun ownership rates in states.
“Our research gives clear evidence that laws have a role in preventing firearms deaths,” said Eric Fleegler, the study’s lead investigator and a pediatric emergency doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Legislators should take that into consideration.”
Fleegler and researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health studied information from all 50 states between 2007 to 2010, analyzing all firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data on firearm laws compiled by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
States with the most laws had a mortality rate 42% lower than those states with the fewest laws, they found. The strong law states’ firearm-related homicide rate was also 40% lower and their firearm-related suicide rate was 37% lower.
In what will be the first election since the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, the $2 million ad buy criticized Hutchison and another candidate for receiving an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). “In the race for Congress, the big issue? Fighting gun violence. Debbie Halvorson and Toi Hutchinson both earned an A from the NRA, they can’t be trusted,” the ad began before endorsing former state Rep. Robin Kelly who supports background checks and banning assault weapons.
Guns have become a central issue in the primary, as Kelly attacked her opponents’ views on gun safety and “pointed out that Hutchinson received a 92 percent rating from the NRA” and does not support a statewide concealed carry ban. She also urged all candidates to “sign on to a five-point pledge to reduce gun violence: banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, closing the gun show loophole, supporting Illinois’ conceal carry ban, and refusing support from ‘organizations that oppose reasonable gun safety legislation.’”
Neither Hutchison nor Halvorson signed on to the document, though the former sought to bolster her credentials on gun safety by releasing a video in which she highlighted her support for “the assault weapons ban and the ban on high capacity magazines favored by Gov. Pat Quinn.”
In response to the upsurge in gun violence, politicians are proposing restrictions on the number of bullets that handgun and rifle magazines can hold. And just as they do, new printing technology blows holes right through that debate. The 3-D printing gunsmiths at Defense Distributed are about to release blueprints for an upgraded magazine that won’t degrade even after you fire hundreds of rounds.
Meet the “Cuomo.” It’s a new printed magazine for your AR-15 rifle, soon to be available for download, and it holds 30 bullets. Upgrading an earlier design that didn’t hold up particularly well after extended use, it’s an unsubtle rejoinder to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who recently signed a magazine-restriction law limiting mags to seven rounds. Defense Distributed is basically saying that if you’re not going to be allowed to buy larger magazines in the near future, you can print them yourself — if, that is, 3-D printed weapons don’t fall into legislators’ own crosshairs.
In recent tests at a gun range near Austin, Texas, Defense Distributed fired a total of 342 rounds using the magazine with no issues, according to the group’s founder, Cody Wilson. The group fired 227 of those rounds using full automatic fire, while swapping out the barrels on the rifle to keep them cool. The group also uploaded a promotional video, seen above, demonstrating a portion of the test.
Today, the debate over gun control gets its first congressional hearing since President Obama proposed sweeping reforms to help tackle escalating gun violence in the United States.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a shot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, are among those slated to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One congressional source tells CBS News that Giffords herself is expected to attend the hearing; she is expected to accompany her husband but is not scheduled to testify.
Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “wants to move legislation, and he wants to do it quickly,” his spokeswoman Jessica Brady told CBSNews.com. Today’s hearing will offer a platform for a “respectful and productive conversation” about “where there is potential for success in passing legislation this year.