August 2, 2018

Should the US treat gun violence as a public health issue?

Medical professionals urge in-depth research into deaths and injuries from firearms.

With gun violence an ever-present concern of those living in the United States, Thursday's edition of The Stream will feature three topics related to the issue.

Gun violence and public health 

Medical and public-health professionals in the United States are renewing their push to get public funding for research into the causes and impacts of gun violence, 22 years after a bill amendment stymied such scrutiny.

On an average day 96 Americans are killed with guns, according to the most comprehensive data held by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC statistics also suggest nearly two-thirds of firearm deaths in the US are suicides. But more granular research into gun violence in the United States is scant - and pales in comparison with research into smoking and road traffic accidents. The 1996 Dickey Amendment, which is supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), forbids the CDC from using money "to advocate or promote gun control". Public funding into researching gun violence has been severely limited ever since.

With death and injury rates remaining stubbornly high, groups including the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine and the American Public Health Association say gun violence should be considered a public health problem. We'll consider the prospects for fresh research into reducing gun violence in a country where gun rights are woven into the Constitution and the firearms lobby exerts such power.

3D-printed guns

A US federal judge has blocked the publication of schematics for 3D-printable guns, just hours before they were due to be posted online. The order comes after eight states and the District of Columbia sued the government to block a settlement between the US State Department and Defense Distributed, a non-profit that owns the printing instructions. Defense Distributed had already published several schematics but planned to make all its files available on August 1. While Defense Distributed say they are exercising their free speech rights to publish the information, law enforcement officials say they are concerned that disseminating the schematics will promote the production of untraceable 'ghost guns', complicate efforts to counter gun violence, and circumvent responsible gun ownership  We’ll look at both sides of the argument.

Youth activism

Meanwhile, some activists who have first-hand experience of deadly gun violence are on the road as part of their effort to change US gun laws. March For Our Lives was formed by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting in February. The group has toured the country over the last two months to win support for its effort towards gun control and counter the power of the NRA. On August 4, their 'Road To Change' tour will join other gun control organisations for a rally outside the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. We'll ask how youth activists have been faring in their marathon effort towards changing US gun laws.

We'll examine these subjects and consider how the arguments for both gun control and gun rights loom large within the American psyche. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Lawrence Nathaniel @lawrence_2028
Executive Director, National Organization for Change
Co-Founder, National March on NRA 

Megan Ranney @meganranney
Chief Research Officer, AFFIRM

Craig Deluz @CraigDeLuz
Director of Legislative and Public Affairs, Firearms and Policy Coalition 

Adam Skaggs @jadamskaggs
Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center

Read more:

Gun deaths could become easier to study thanks to the new spending bill - The Verge
Meet the man who might have brought on the age of 'downloadable guns' - The Washington Post