Three Harvard experts say the best way to curb gun violence in the U.S. is to take a broad public health approach, drawing on proven, evidence-based strategies that have successfully reduced other public health threats like smoking, car crashes, and accidental poisonings.
For instance, in much the same way that media, celebrities, peers, teachers, and physicians worked together in the latter decades of the 20th century to “de-glorify” cigarettes — previously seen as symbols of power, modernity, and sexuality — an analogous campaign “could justifiably equate gun violence with weakness, irrationality, and cowardice” and reduce its glorification in movies, television, and video games, the authors write.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis, and addressing this will require a comprehensive, multi-dimensional public health strategy,” said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). “Our past successes in reducing other harmful behaviors and accidents provide a set of evidence-based tools to address the many underlying root causes of gun violence.”
With more than 30,000 Americans killed by guns each year — 85 deaths per day — setting limits and regulations on gun ownership is just one aspect to be considered in curbing the violence, the authors say.
They offer more than a dozen recommendations, based on successful strategies used in other public health crises. For example, they suggest a new, substantial national tax on all firearms and ammunition, to more accurately reflect the true societal costs of gun ownership and to provide a stable revenue source to target gun violence prevention. Such a tax would function like the tobacco tax, which provides crucial funding for smoking prevention efforts.
“Changing social norms is a fundamental public health strategy,” said Hemenway. “For common products like cigarettes, cars, and guns, many individuals, groups, and institutions need to become involved. As ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ similarly friends should help ensure that a friend going through a psychological crisis doesn’t have ready access to a firearm until the crisis is over.”
“Safety standards for gun ownership still represent one key facet of a comprehensive approach, just as automobiles and medications are widely used but subject to sensible safety policies,” the authors conclude.
- What The War On Tobacco Can Teach Us About Fighting Gun Violence (businessinsider.com)