Where Are We With Gun Violence Prevention?

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Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of “The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free ...Read More

Ending gun violence has become a national conversation in the past several months. The question of why more than 30,000 people die annually in the United States from injuries caused by firearms has been asked and debated, sometimes hotly.

This issue of gun violence is emotional, political and often cuts close to our most dearly held values.


So where are we, on this crucial issue? Calling gun violence in the U.S. a public health crisis, the American Psychological Association, as the world’s largest organization of behavior health practitioners and scientists has stressed five important points when it comes to gun violence:

1. Improve and expand school violence prevention efforts
2. Make communities safer, including public health campaigns to help people in distress seek help
3. Enhance access to mental health and substance use services
4. Increase federal funding to vital service and training
5. Enhance knowledge for sound public policy on violence prevention.

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A new study suggests we must further explore the controversial relationship between firearm laws and gun violence.

“Having a higher number of firearm laws in a state may be associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities from suicides and homicides,” according to a report of a study across all 50 states published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Eric W. Fleegler, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts, and colleagues analyzed 4 years of firearm-related deaths that were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a web-based reporting system. They also examined state-level firearm legislation across five categories of laws to create a “legislative strength score.” The authors then used statistical analysis to measure the association of that score with mortality rates.

“In an analysis of all states using data from 2007 through 2010, we found that a higher number of firearm laws in a state was associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state.”

However, the authors pointed out that although the study found a clear relationship between gun violence and gun laws, it was not designed to determine whether there was a cause and effect relationship between the two.

It was designed to study whether “variations in the strength of state firearm legislation are associated with variations in the rates of firearm fatalities.”

“In conclusion, we found an association between the legislative strength of a state’s firearm laws – as measured by a higher number of laws – and a lower rate of firearm fatalities. The association was significant for firearm fatalities overall and for firearm suicide and firearm homicide deaths, individually. As our study could not determine a cause-and-effect relationship, further studies are necessary to define the nature of this association,” the study concludes.



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