Private Guns, Public Health
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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When I was growing up in the 1950s, cars did not have seat belts, shatterproof windows, collapsible steering columns, or air bags. In high school, when schoolmates of mine died in automobile accidents, people said they were driving too fast or too carelessly. Perhaps this was no surprise, it was thought, for, after all, they were teenagers. In the late 1960s, I went to work for Ralph Nader, then at the height of his...
1. Guns and American Society
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On an average day during the 1990s in the United States, firearms were used to kill more than ninety people and to wound about three hundred more. Each day guns were also used in the commission of about three thousand crimes. The U.S. rates of death and injury due to firearms and the rate of crimes committed with firearms are far higher than those of any other industrialized...
2. The Public Health Approach
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During most of the twentieth century, gun assaults were seen almost exclusively as a criminal justice problem, gun suicides as a mental health problem, and unintentional gunshot wounds as a safety issue. Since the mid-1980s, it has become increasingly recognized that the most promising approach to reduce firearm injury is to emphasize prevention, focus on the community,...
3. Gun-related Injury and Death
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention divides injury deaths into accidents (unintentional injuries), suicides, and homicides. This chapter discusses the extent to which firearms contribute to deaths in each of these categories, including scientific evidence regarding the problem, and examines gun use in robberies, assaults, and other crimes. The chapter also briefly...
4. Self-defense Use of Guns
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The previous chapters highlighted some of the costs guns impose on society. But guns also provide some safety benefits. Guns may be used to thwart criminal acts, and awareness of their presence may deter individuals from attempting to commit crimes. But how common is self-defense gun use, and how much benefit do guns really provide for our society? This chapter...
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Gun use can occur in various locations, including at home, at school, and on the street and in other public venues. This chapter examines guns in these three settings, starting with the home. The first section describes empirical evidence on the actual and psychological risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, the way Americans store their guns at home, and the effects of...
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Firearm problems strike different groups differently. For example, suicide is more of a rural problem, while homicide disproportionately affects city dwellers. Black Americans have about half the risk of suicide of white Americans but more than five times the risk of becoming homicide victims. This chapter describes the risk of firearm injury to four vulnerable populations...
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In a gun's life span, four main opportunities exist for legal interventions or regulations to be imposed: (1) the time of manufacture; (2) the time of sale; (3) the period of possession or carrying; and (4) the period of use (Baker, Teret, and Dietz 1980). A comprehensive policy approach to reducing gun injuries includes sensible regulations concerning all four of these periods, but...
8. Policy Background
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Prescribing reasonable and feasible firearm policies for the United States requires understanding the context in which American firearms policy is set. The starting point for any discussion of this topic must be the U.S. Constitution--specifically, the Second Amendment, which is sometimes claimed to limit possible policy alternatives. After examining these arguments, the chapter turns...
9. Policy Lessons
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The public health approach is optimistic, flexible, and pragmatic and has succeeded in many areas. It emphasizes the wide array of policies that can be used to improve the nation's health. By contrast, gun advocates sometimes appear pessimistic, inflexible, and doctrinaire, seemingly unable to visualize more than a narrow range of punitive policy alternatives. Gun advocates also...
10. Policy Actions
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There are a wide variety of reasonable, feasible policies that could reduce the firearms injury problem in the United States. To explore such policies, it is first necessary to understand the history of federal firearms laws in the United States, and this chapter begins with a brief description of these laws. The second section discusses policy prescriptions for the firearms problem. An...
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The United States has more guns in civilian hands than any other industrialized nation. We have far more handguns per capita, and a gun is easily obtainable by virtually anyone who wants one. Our crime and violence rates are comparable to other developed countries; what distinguishes the United States is our rate of lethal violence, most of which involves guns.
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Private Guns, Public Health was completed in the fall of 2003. Over the next two years, the scientific literature reaffirmed the conclusions of the book. What follows is a brief summary of some of the more important findings from the recent literature through the end of 2005. 1. GUNS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY Scope of the Gun Problem. The United States continues to have by far the...
Appendix A. Methodology
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APPENDIX B: FAMOUS CIVILIANS SHOT IN THE UNITED STATES
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Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 16 tables, 3 illustrations
Publication Year: 2006