Question of the Day: Is “Gun Violence” A Public Health Issue?

There he is…David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. The gun control advocates’ go-to expert on “gun violence.” The academic churns out study after study “proving” that gun control is a good thing. His shtick: “gun violence” as a public health issue. I suppose you could say that, in the sense that anything that kills or injures people is a public health issue. But that kinda depends on whatever the meaning of is, is. And I can’t trust a man who says mass shootings are increasing when they aren’t. Still, is it in any way helpful [for gun rights] to consider firearms-related death and injury as a public health issue – considering that most gun deaths are suicide related?


  1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    Is baseball bat violence a public health issue?
    Is hammer violence a public health issue?
    Is staircase violence a public health issue?
    Is swimming pool violence a public health issue?
    Is automobile violence a public health issue?

    Violence, regardless of cause or implementation means, is a crime issue, not a public health issue.

    1. avatar Montana Dan says:


    2. avatar notalima says:

      Is gang violence being addressed by the Harvard group as a Public Health Issue? If so, why not? Seems like getting to the root cause is a bit smarter than concentrating on one the tools…

      But I’m not a Doctoral graduate at a fluffy school so what do I know?

      1. avatar Bob R says:

        Right. How many Chicago residents been killed by people (gang bangers) using guns in just the last year compared to mass shootings in the same year?

        I guess inner city lives don’t matter in this case…

    3. avatar styrgwillidar says:

      Exactly, once you say being a victim of violence is a public health issue it has to include all methodologies. AND it has to consider all remediation’s/solutions, in which case:

      – Guns are a solution to a public health problem. Guns are highly effective in countering numerous types of violence. (Of course, we’ll have to mandate that all health insurance polices cover it…)

      – I think we should empower Doctor’s to write prescriptions for guns as prophylactics in treating violence. Kind of like immunizations…

    4. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “s swimming pool violence a public health issue?”

      I *really* think you don’t want to there on that.

      It’s state law here that swimming pools have fences with lockable gates.

      1. avatar GusMac says:

        Even if every state has the same law once inside this locked gate, either by finding the key or climbing the gate, people still drown. There are also things called public swimming pools. People still drown there even with lifeguards on duty. Some laws are in place to prevent drowning in a pool but as with all laws of this type they have no real way of stopping it from happening. I don’t see how it is more or less valid than the rest on that list.

      2. avatar Chip in Florida says:

        And we already have laws that make shooting people without cause illegal so the comparison is still valid.

    5. avatar Howdy says:

      Is Healthcare Mortality a public health issue?
      I never hear this from anyone in that industry.

  2. avatar Montana Dan says:

    Is my ability to make choices regarding my own person a public health issue?

    If I want to die, I will. If I want to buy a gun, I will.

    Is being gay a public health issue?
    Is owning a car a public health issue?

    1. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin) says:

      Gay sex is a public health issue that sucks up more resources than violence using guns. However, gay sex is an approved activity by leftist elites and therefore is not a problem.

      1. avatar Don says:

        I’m pretty sure heterosexual sex without birth control methods employed sucks up orders of magnitude more public resources than just about anything else that exists. It’s not often you hear about gay teen pregnancy.

        1. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin) says:

          Why are you so defensive?

          I wasn’t making any claims other than the relative use of medical resources between social approved sexual practices and guns.

        2. avatar Cliff H says:

          Heterosexual sex without birth control has resulted in over 50 MILLION aborted babies since Roe v. Wade. Why isn’t that considered a public health issue? I’m pretty sure that body count far outstrips all the “gun violence” deaths in the same period, even counting suicides and gang-related.

        3. avatar Don says:

          Because I’m against your implied anti-gay rhetoric. And the idea that gay people costs the public more in medical expenses than straight people is insane.

  3. avatar Col Potter says:

    It most assuredly is a public health issue for the criminals who are getting blown up by law abiding citizens exercising their natural right to self defense.

  4. avatar Defens says:

    Is homicide contagious?
    Is suicide contagious?
    Is “gun violence” contagious in a medical sense?
    Are there medical interventions that can inoculate the public against “gun violence?”
    Do health agency recommendations to restrict Constitutional rights have the authority of law?

    If not, STFU.Go brew up some more measles or smallpox vaccine, and do the job you’re presumably being paid to do.

  5. avatar Tt78 says:

    Based on his logic, aren’t police a public health issue?

    1. avatar notalima says:

      ^^^ Winner (/Charlie Sheen) 😀

  6. avatar Paul says:

    They can argue that it is a public health issue because the youth on youth gang killings in the ‘hood are an obvious blip in their statistics. Otherwise it is a non-issue and has nothing to do with public health.

  7. avatar Rokurota says:

    “Public health issue” is code for “something we are permitted to regulate.”

    1. avatar Joe Nieters says:


    2. avatar Joe Nieters says:

      ^ This!

  8. avatar pg2 says:

    Yes, because all individual liberties are under attack using the pretext of public health-public good. Not even going to mention govt/medical overreach……

  9. avatar LarryinTX says:

    I am most interested in how many taxpayer dollars have found their way into this dipshit’s pocket since Jan 2008? Sounds just like tobacco “studies”, the same people producing the same report, over and over, because the government was paying them to produce that report, no actual research required. For decades. A growth industry?!

  10. avatar General Zod says:

    Considering that you’re much more likely to die as a result of medical incompetence, I’d say these “public health” champions need to clean their own house first before coming after one of the least likely ways to die…

    1. avatar pg2 says:

      Very true. Medical/pharmaceutical deaths per year in this country reach 225,000. This attack on gun ownership, like the push for mandatory vaccines, is not about public health, but control over the indivual.

  11. avatar MAC says:

    There is no such thing as “gun violence” as guns are inanimate objects incapable of committing acts of violence on their own. There is simply violence, some of which the perpetrators may use guns. The media has carefully created the term “gun violence” to imply that guns are bad or evil on their own. It’s the same tactic they’ve used to define “assault weapons” and to demonize semi-automatic firearms.

    1. avatar Chris. says:

      Exactly right. Violence is violence.

  12. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    My guns must be defective, their violence doesn’t work autonomously. Damn……

  13. avatar Shire-man says:

    “Public health issues” freak me out. Not so much the issues but the way people approach dealing with them.

    Between behavior mandates in your own home to mandatory exposure to pharmaceuticals why not just chop all of our legs off at the knee, lock us in pens small enough we cannot move and risk injury and feed us only “expert” approved slime with all the vitamins, nutrients and drugs we need in the name of public health and safety.

  14. avatar tdgrafton says:

    *shrug*. Those in the military some time treat the use guns as preventive medicine……

  15. avatar Roy says:

    It is a public health issue. But so what? What about public health means you can violate civil rights?

    And on the flip side, it’s a public health issue that Governments won’t let victims defend themselves outside the confines of their own home. If rape is a public health issue, why isn’t a public health issue to be able to stop the rape?

  16. avatar scooter says:

    Yes. Violence of every kind is a public health issue, and the causes should be identified and treated. THIS takes the focus off of the WEAPONS used… THIS is what we want if it is approached correctly. The recent publishings about the failure/farce of gun buy backs, schools allowing people to protect themselves… in some areas we are winning. As an educator and student of psychology, I’ve learned to always ask “why?” Bad guy does bad thing, goes to jail, gets out, does more bad things, cry about guns? NO. Break the cycles of recidivism. Demand personal accountability but also demand accountability from those who maintain a system of elitism and exceptionalism that allow the poor and mentally ill, sometimes veterans, to fall through over and over. “Re-elect me… I passed a gun law!” needs to be replaced with “Re-elect me… I made a difference in the causes of criminal behavior!”

  17. avatar Don says:

    People like this need to open their minds to the fact that most murders are rational in the context of the environment they are committed, not irrational. Therefore it isn’t an issue of public health, it’s an issue of incentives and environment.

    Most murder happens as a result of business conflicts which occur in illegal economies. Few murders are “crimes of passion”. If you go down the list of “mass shootings” that anti-gun groups provide and look up the news articles and follow up articles the vast majority are directly related to gangs or other criminal activity. Very few are crimes of passion.

    Gun controllers in the name of “public health” don’t even realize they are really just classist and/or racist. You HAVE to be classist and/or racist to believe “if only it was a bit harder for these people to kill each other, they would kill each other less”. That’s totally patronizing and dismissive of the reality of the situation. It assumes that the people involved are intellectually or emotionally inferior and are killing each other because they have no self-control. This is not true.

    But sure, when you look at the method for murder and not the incentives and motives, you can’t see any pattern and it looks like a scary unpredictable contagion. This crappy scientist may as well say gun violence is a curse for failing to pay tribute to the sun god Ra.

  18. avatar DrVino says:

    ~60 of those 90 people a day are SUICIDES. Talk about skewing the facts!
    Means substitution: no gun? no problem! jump out of windows/under trains/off bridges, use rope/pesticide/pills/car+closed garage/etc….
    We have a much lower suicide rate than other developed nations. BY FAR.

  19. avatar NJ2AZ says:

    making this a “public health” issue is propaganda 101. If you can convince people that something is a health issue, you make it far easier to marginalize those who disagree, because who could possibly be AGAINST the public health except those who are either amoral or ignorant?

    1. avatar Pg2 says:

      Well said. Same propaganda methodology as with anything touted as “Common sense”,,,,

  20. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    What about public health? Public health is a public health issue since public health is responsible for an estimated 400,000+ PREVENTABLE deaths a year.

    That estimate is probably low as health care professionals aren’t jumping up and down to rat themselves off.

  21. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    If “gun violence” is a public health issue, then so is attending Harvard, since so much of the damage and stupidity in our health care system is a result of Harvard graduates’ stupidity.

    1. avatar GusMac says:

      But wait. Not even if all of the 75% of the college educated readers of TTAG went there? 😉

      I am joking and not at your expense but rather again taking a jab at the claim made by TTAG about the percentage of college educated TTAG readers and its perceived significance. What would be the significance of a gun grabber group with 100% college educated readers? How about a pro-gun group with 0% college educated readers? The answer. None, absolutely zero effect outside of name calling.

      I completely agree with you, Harvard may be one of (if not) the worst but it would just be nice if they were even close to the only one that is a problem.

  22. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    “Public health” can only apply to the herd, the cattle assembled for the use and benefit of the owners, the controllers. Individuals have the authority (right) to associate, or not, as suits their own purposes. Isolation, quarantine and treatment of those who potentially could spread disease to others would be far better managed by voluntary association and cooperation. Those who refused to take steps to reduce or avoid infecting others would be treated as any other aggressor.

    Applying “public health” measures to guns only shows their true intentions. Has nothing to do with OUR health. They want to confiscate our guns because they want to do things to us that we would not allow as long as we are armed. That should tell us all we need to know.

  23. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    Considering that there is more and more evidence supporting Lott’s contention of “More Guns, Less Crime”, if the Anti’s want to frame it as a public health issue let them. But the end result of that framing is not that there should be more gun control but that there should be less and people should consider it their duty for public health reasons to get a gun, much like a vaccination against measles or small pox.

  24. avatar dwb says:

    “Public Health Issue” have been the code words for alcohol and drug prohibitionists, as well as gun controllers, since at least the late 1800s.

    It is code for a pseudo-scientific socialist ideology that presumes people cannot choose, or substitute, and that socializes the issue to avoid personal responsibility. Before the age of political correctness, it was supported by outright racism – clearly blacks were cocaine fiends and should not own guns.

    Now its supported by cherry picked pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. But, the net effect on minorities remains the same.

  25. avatar Clark45 says:

    Is “Gun Violence” A Public Health Issue? Short answer: No.

    Take the word “gun” out of the question, and the answer might be “maybe” or “partially.” Mental health figures into a lot of the violence the mainstream media covers, but gang violence is a “cultural” issue. In fact, much of the violence in American society can be attributed to “culture.” As a society we no longer foster self-responsibility or self control or courage. We turn thugs into celebrities and at the same time we are cowering in fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

    Of course, by “we” I mean people like this guy & not the vast majority of the POTG.

  26. avatar craig says:

    The public health issue is individuals who bring children into this world that they cannot properly care for and try to raise them in a community of like-minded kids who have little to no values. Those are the kids that become gang bangers. Those are the kids who go get guns!

  27. avatar dave s says:

    Think that improved accuracy and stopping power would reduce associated health costs. So maybe they can advocate improved marksmanship and better ammo design.

  28. avatar Sam I Am says:

    It is a public health issue related/observed in only law-abiding gun owners. That is, only law-abiding gun owners present a health risk to society. The gangers and other violent criminals are a police problem; can’t improve health among those groups.

  29. avatar Another Bob says:

    In the sense that any violent attack on a human ( self or others) is a health issue. If it is included as one of many okay. Singled out for special attention. No. In a well reasoned society. I could see this a responsible. However the individuals who want this are not responsible or reasonable (i.e. biased) So NO.
    These people like many manipulators slither in through reasonable requests camouflaging their real agenda. So when you say no they can pressure you by claiming your unreasonableness.

  30. avatar Tommycat says:

    Gun VIOLENCE is not a public health issue, it is a CRIME issue.

    Gun SUICIDE is a public health issue, because suicides are a mental health issue. The gun is merely the means by which they choose to end their life.

  31. avatar Ted says:

    Gun violence is no more a public health issue than drug overdoses are.

    Apart from communicable diseases and (apparently) eating at Chipotle, very few things are actual public health issues.

  32. avatar Ralph says:

    Why is it that guns are a public health issue, but medical malpractice that kills 100,000 people a year and maims countless others is not a public health issue?

    Oh, I know why. It’s because doctors determine what is and what is not a public health issue. The foxes are guarding the hen house.

    1. avatar Pg2 says:

      Medically related deaths approach 225,000 yearly. Public health is a propagandized phrase being used to undermine and attack individual liberties from multiple angles.

  33. avatar Anonymous says:

    To Hemenway, freedom is the problem. He hates freedom.

  34. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Gun safety,public health, save the children,Evil NRA,small-phallused white boyz,we hate Christians and violent po-leece targeting minorities…I guess they never mention the criminals responsible for 99% of of the “public health” problems…

  35. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    This guy needs to retire and turn in his research card. It’s not like he would be missing it because what he is doing right now isn’t research.

  36. avatar Kyle says:

    This is an old canard that gun violence is a public health issue. It is a criminology issue. Gun suicide perhaps could be considered an issue of public health, just like car accidents, but while public health people can comment on car accidents, they would not be called to address illegal street racing, which is a criminology issue. Similarly, gun violence is an issue of crime, and hence criminologists. And historically, the medical profession has shown a great deal of ignorance regarding the criminological literature on the subject of guns in society.

  37. avatar Pg2 says:

    Good article about for the greater good, which is the same as public health just with a different window dressing.

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