It’s time we addressed the public health problem of guns. Homicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and the fourth-leading cause among 5- to 14-year-olds. Overwhelmingly, guns are the weapons used in these killings.
The arguments for and against gun control have been rehashed far too many times to give us much hope for meaningful policy changes. But it is undeniable that guns are deadly weapons too easily used by those who have no legitimate reason for them. How many guns do we have in the U.S.? One estimate puts it at 270 million, or nearly four guns for every American child.
Some Americans view gun ownership as a civil right, perhaps second only in importance to religious expression. While few gun owners will ever use them against another person, we often hear the argument that a gun provides its owner with a sense of security. However, there is little evidence that owning guns makes anyone more safe. In fact, where there are more gun-owning households, after controlling for a number of demographic factors, local homicide rates are greater.
So what will it take to loosen our grip on guns?
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS). Fatal injuries are firearm-related, ages 0-17, for 2009. Non-fatal injuries are firearm-related, ages 0-17, seen in hospital emergency department, for 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/
2 Child Trends DataBank. (2012). Teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths. http://childtrendsdatabank.org/alphalist?q=node/124
3 Civilian-owned firearms. http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states
4 Miller, M., Azrael, D., Hemenway, D. (2007). State-level homicide victimization rates in the U.S. in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 656-64.