Recent commentaries offer several physician viewpoints on this problem (NEJM 2013; 368: 397-99, 399-400, 401-403). For me, the following points were of most interest:
- 88 Americans died every day from firearm violence in 2011; high-profile events like Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Columbine are uncommon.
- In California, background checks are required on all firearm purchases and this has been associated with a 23% reduction in firearm-related crime. Though, this policy is hampered by neighboring state policies. In Reno, Nevada, about 1/3rd of the cars at gun shows are from California.
- In 2010, 6570 deaths in children/young persons (1-24 yrs) were due to gun-related injuries. Gun-related fatalities cause twice as many deaths as cancer, five times as many as heart disease, and fifteen times as many as infections.
- Suicide attempts with drugs are lethal in <5% whereas 90% involving guns are lethal.
- The authors advocate for better background checks, a ban on assault weapons, limits on ammunition capacity, and removing restrictions on the collection of public health data regarding gun-related injuries.
In a previous blog about the problem of obesity, I referenced the “issue-attention cycle” problem. ”This pattern occurs when initial public alarm over the discovery of a problem and optimism about its quick resolution are replaced by the realization that solving the problem will require some public sacrifice and will displace powerful societal interests.”
Despite the high toll exacted by gun violence, will there be enough staying power to work on these incremental steps?