How to cut gun deaths

Reducing the number of guns or reducing access to guns would lead to fewer gun deaths. Another way to cut gun violence would be to treat it as a public health issue and establish stricter gun regulations.

So said Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts in the wake of the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon on October 1, 2015.

An October 5, 2015 article quoted from Private Guns, Public Health, a 2004 book by David Hemenway, professor of health policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC). “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” Hemenway wrote.

Hemenway also estimated in an October 1, 2015 Washington Post article that people ages 15-24 are 49 times more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. than in other developed nations. According to the Centers for Disease Control, gun deaths, both by homicide and by suicide, happen disproportionately to young people in the U.S., and more teens and young adults die by guns than in car crashes.

“In other developed countries, children don’t have to go through metal detectors to go to school,” he told the Post.

Matthew Miller, HICRC co-director and a professor at Northeastern University, co-authored an opinion piece in the October 6, 2015 Boston Globe that argued that the U.S. should treat guns the way it treats other public health threats, like automobile safety or air pollution—and regulate them accordingly.

“The weakness of firearm legislation stands in stark contrast to the tightening of regulations related to auto safety and environmental pollution,” wrote Miller. “Firearm violence is a public health crisis no less serious than those associated with automobiles. Our experience with autos and pollution shows that, along with other measures, sensible gun regulations could save lives.”

Read the article: Becoming a gun-free society would be hard. But we should still try.

Read the Washington Post article: Shooting in Oregon: Young people are far more likely to die by guns than in cars

Read the Boston Globe article: What the Clean Air Act can teach us about reducing gun violence

Learn more

Living more safely with guns (Harvard Chan School news)

The public health case for gun control (Harvard Chan School news)