Preface to the New Edition
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Preface to the New Edition In the past decade much has occurred in the United States with respect to gun violence prevention. In this new preface I discuss what I see as some of the more important events since the publication of Private Guns, Public Health in 2004, with a focus on research findings. A Continuing Public Health Problem Unfortunately, the enormous U.S. public health problem due to gun violence remains with us, in large part because powerful interests have done little to reduce the problem. In the past ten years, more American civilians have been killed by guns than were killed in combat by any method during World War II. On an average day in 2015, for example (the most recent year for which good data are available), one hundred Americans died from gunfire. The United States remains an outlier compared to the other high-­ income OECD countries—­ we have far higher rates of per capita gun death. And we seem to be getting relatively worse! For example, a recent study found that five-­to fourteen-­ year-­ old children in the United States have fourteen times the chance of dying from a firearm compared to children in other developed nations, up from eleven times the chance a decade earlier (Grinshteyn and Hemenway 2016; Richardson and Hemenway 2011). Deaths are only a part of the problem. It is estimated that there were almost two hundred nonfatal woundings per day in the past decade (Fowler et al. 2015) and over one thousand criminal gun uses (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2013). A recent review of the literature estimates that over 4.5 million women alive today have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun (Sorenson and Schut 2016). The public health effects from gun violence include the effect not only on the immediate family and friends, but also the witnesses, because those exposed to gun violence are at higher risk for many mental, social, and emo- PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION xii tional health problems (Listenbee et al. 2012, Montgomerie et al. 2015; Wright et al. 2016). Perhaps most importantly, firearm violence can destroy communities , with people afraid to go out at night, and businesses unwilling to locate there (Hemenway 2011; Irvin-­ Erickson et al. 2016). In the past decade there have been a spate of public gun massacres, a marked increase from previous decades (Cohen, Azrael, and Miller 2014). These incidents, not surprisingly, receive much media attention. The mass shootings have also led to more media attention about gun violence prevention generally, which is a good thing. Relatively few mass shootings are in gun-­ free zones, and regular citizens with guns almost never stop the shooter (Blair and Schweit 2014; Klarevas 2016). The shooters in these gun massacres are male, typically with high self-­ esteem but fragile egos, with easy access to firearms (Klarevas 2016). Also in the news have been police killings of civilians, sometimes of unarmed black men, with cell phone and other cameras bearing witness to some horrific police actions. We do not know whether police killings have been increasing or not over time. What we do know is that the U.S. police homicide rate of civilians is far higher than police killings in other developed nations (Zimring 2016) and police mostly use guns to kill civilians. We also know that U.S. police are far more likely to be murdered on the job than police in other developed nations (Zimring 2016), that almost all U.S. officers killed in the line of duty are killed with firearms (Swedler et al. 2014), and that the differential rates of police being killed across U.S. states are not explained by differential rates of crime, but by differences in levels of household gun ownership (Swedler et al. 2015). It is much more dangerous for police to respond to a domestic violence call if there are guns in the household. In the past decade, there has also been more evidence of other public health costs of gun use, including lead poisoning and pollution problems for humans and animals from shooting ranges and hunting, and hearing loss problems for those engaged in the shooting sports (Yablon 2016; Fachehoun et al. 2015; James 2014; Johnson, Kelly, and Rideout 2013; Sataloff, Hawkshaw, and Sataloff 2010). The Public Health Approach Private Guns, Public Health advocates a public health approach to violence prevention, and carefully explains what I think that means. If forced to describe the approach in one sentence, I would...