Gun control activists have spent decades talking about how “firearms are deadly weapons” and whinging about “easy access to firearms.” It’s an attempt to scare people into supporting new gun control legislation — raising the perceived threat high enough that the public demands their rights be removed in the name of safety.
Recently we’ve seen the debate shift. Instead of treating firearms as talismans of evil and fetishistic objects of murder, saner, cooler heads have been looking at the root cause of “gun violence”, particularly suicide, no matter what the tool used.
But just as we’ve finally started thinking about effective countermeasures to limit violence, a group of doctors raised their hands and asked “but wait, why don’t we focus on the evil deadly weapons instead?”
The American Journal of Preventitive Medicine’s study is entitled Broadening the Perspective on Gun Violence: An Examination of the Firearms Industry. It examines two factors: whether there are more firearms in the United States than there were in the 1990s, and whether firearms are more deadly (as determined solely by caliber).
Naturally, the answer to both of these questions is “yes.”
In a vacuum, these results might seem pretty damning to the gun rights folks. “Look at all these deadly guns on the streets! This is terrible!” And yet, even with all that firepower in private hands, things have only gotten better.
Crime peaked in the early 1990’s and has been dropping dramatically ever since, “gun violence” included. If these deadlier and more prolific firearms were causing more firearms-related injury and death we would have seen the exact opposite result. Using their “logic” you could even make the argument that the deadlier firearms have made America safer.
Somehow I don’t think that’s the result the [Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded] team of doctors and researchers were looking for. With thanks to Everytown for Gun Safety. Here’s their conclusion:
Ultimately, a better understanding of the products on the market may have implications for improving firearms as consumer products, such as fostering changes in design to increase safety or changes in corporate practices to better protect consumers, as has been done for tobacco products.
Vernick and Teret have outlined six potential areas in which a better understanding of firearms and firearm manufacturer practices could contribute to the development of novel strategies:
(1) implementing safety standards;
(2) reducing firearm lethality;
(3) implementing surveillance and recall protocols;
(4) improving oversight of dealers;
(5) ensuring responsible advertising; and
(6) enhancing accountability.
This paper cannot in itself provide definitive solutions, but it may help inform debate as well as provide a basis for further research.