These infographics attempt to illuminate the complexities of ammunition, in the interest of informed debate about possible new legislation and regulations.
The policy proposals that President Obama announced on Wednesday (organized by category here) outlined a wide-ranging agenda, including twenty-three items that could be implemented through executive action and twelve recommendations for action from Congress.* The items are a mixed bag, ranging from immediately actionable ideas to proposals that may never make it through Congress. Some are vague (launching a national dialogue about mental illness) while others are very specific (confirming a director for the ATF). In the coming weeks, PAGV will explore, seek input on, and respond in detail to the specific items. Here we outline a few of our immediate reactions as parents and concerned citizens.
- This is an important first step. It is gratifying to see the President both take direct action on a number of important gun-related matters, and publicly initiate the conversation about what needs to change to address the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
- We strongly agree with the need for a comprehensive legislative and executive agenda, one that attempts to solve gun violence by addressing gun access, gun safety, school safety, societal factors, and mental illness. Reducing the threat of violence to our children will clearly require such a broad-based, comprehensive effort. Any flaws in individual proposals do not invalidate the entire effort.
- There will be something for everyone to like, and for everyone to hate, in the proposals. Given the current political climate, this may be inevitable. Due to the absence of thorough research into the causes and effects of gun violence, there is little agreement about its remedies, beyond a desire to see it end. To some, allocating $10,000,000 to research the connection between video games and violence seems like the worst kind of pandering to the NRA’s “it’s-everything-but-the-guns” narrative. To others, requiring background checks on all gun sales seems like the first step in a government takeover.
- Some of the proposals concur in fundamental ways with recent policy proposals from Parents Against Gun Violence. One of the executive orders, for example, directed the Centers for Disease Control to initiate research into the health effects of gun access (PAGV Policy Plank #2, Empower Researchers), while a proposal to Congress urges legislators to allocate $30,000,000 for schools to develop emergency-response plans (Policy Plank #5, Protect Schools).
- While President Obama implemented a number of executive actions, the biggest proposed changes will all require legislative action. All of the major funding allocations (with the exception of $20 million to encourage states to share background data) also have to go through Congress. In the coming weeks, concerned parents and citizens need to make sure that our voices and perspectives are heard in the legislative debates.
* Note that Obama actually signed only three executive orders (technically “presidential memorandums“) on Wednesday. The 23 “executive actions” named in the Obama proposal describe general policy priorities that would not require Congressional approval for implementation. However, many of the proposed “executive actions” come far from implemented (or implementable) public policy at this point.
Parents Against Gun Violence was founded by a nationwide coalition of mothers and fathers hours after the Newtown, CT killings. In the weeks that followed, our members were busy collecting and studying scientific, peer-reviewed research on the causes of gun violence and gun accidents, and strategizing about how to reduce both.
At the same time, we have engaged in intensive dialogue with concerned citizens from across the political spectrum. Through this process of research and dialogue, we have developed a set of five policy planks that we believe can gain support across the political spectrum, and that provide a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence. We encourage all concerned citizens to contact their representatives, senators and any other elected officials as well to advocate for these policy proposals. If you would like to sign the petition promoting this platform, click on the Change.org petition here.
As parents, we urge lawmakers and the President to consider the following:
Policy Plank 1.) Empower law enforcement
a.) Approve Andrew Traver, President Obama’s nominee for Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Without a leader, the Bureau is hampered in its ability to enforce its congressionally mandated responsibilities, such as investigating and prosecuting straw purchasers who buy guns for criminals. More »
We’ve been covering a lot of medical association news related to the Newtown shooting and gun-related legislation, but that’s because we’re very focused on looking at what research can tell us about reducing firearm injury, and medical associations are closely involved with much of this research.
Just as the American Psychiatric Association issued their remarks last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent their own letter, which you can download here, to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders on December 19.
The organization had published a report on firearm-related injuries affecting children in their journal Pediatrics in October, in which they wrote “The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support a number of specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons; and the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use.”
Unsurprisingly, in their letter to political leaders, they were just as direct regarding policy proposals related to gun control, mental health and children’s exposure to violence:
• ”New federal firearms legislation that bans assault weapon sales and the sales of high capacity magazines, strengthens mandatory waiting periods and background checks for all gun purchases and promotes strict gun safety policies is a necessary first step.
• Next, the federal government must take action to improve access to services that meet the mental health and developmental needs of infants, children and adolescents, and ensures that children and families exposed to violence have access to a medical home and other community supports.
• Finally, we must engage in a national dialogue designed to reduce children’s detrimental exposure to violence in their communities, environments and entertainment.”
We’ll be revisiting the full account of their policy report on firearms for a later blog post, but we also wanted to mention another article with similar recommendations. “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American Medical Association, also offered commentary related to firearm regulation. More »
Since much of the nationwide dialogue after this tragedy has involved discussions on mental health, it makes sense that the American Psychiatric Association issued their remarks. Dilip Jeste, MD, president of the APA, sent a letter December 20 on behalf of the organization to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The letter, which you can download here, focused on two main points. First, as part of their responsibility to their profession, Dr. Jeste said “psychiatrists stand ready to do whatever we can to help alleviate the suffering caused by the tragedy and to help the survivors cope with life after a trauma of this unimaginable magnitude.”
But more importantly, Dr. Jeste followed that with a reminder that focusing too much on the mental condition of the shooter risks inappropriately increasing the stigma already associated with mental illness. “Stigma remains one of the greatest barriers to early identification, intervention, and treatment for Americans seeking help for mental illness, and we hope that Congress will avoid making generalized assumptions about persons now in or seeking treatment for mental illness,” Dr. Jeste wrote.
After noting that the “vast majority of violence” does not occur at the hands of individuals with mental disorders, Dr. Jeste said that those who do commit the crimes generally are not receiving adequate or appropriate mental health treatment. The statistics he notes are sobering: Public mental health spending has been reduced by $4.35 billion from 2009 to 2012, and 29 states have gotten rid of over 3,200 psychiatric inpatient beds since 2008.
He also brought up an issue which had been in the medical news recently related to doctors’ ability to discuss firearm possession and safety with their patients: “We are also profoundly disturbed by recent efforts in some states to curb or bar the ability of physicians, including psychiatrists, to prudently and confidentially inquire about the presence of firearms in the home when the behavior of their patients warrants such an inquiry,” Dr. Jeste wrote.
An article published in JAMA Pediatrics (formerly Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) provided the history of the Florida law that attempted to prevent doctors from speaking to their patients about firearms, concluding “Dialogue stemming from these questions will help families protect children from multiple forms of harm.”
A few days after sending that letter, the APA spoke up again to express their “disappointment” to the statement by the NRA and specifically the mental health stigmatization that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre promoted with his comments. The APA wrote in their news release (pdf):
“The association objected to LaPierre’s assumption that horrendous crimes such as the one committed by shooter Adam Lanza are commonly perpetrated by persons with mental illness. In addition, he conflated mental illness with evil at several points in his talk and suggested that those who commit heinous gun crimes are ‘so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them,’ a description that leads to the further stigmatization of people with mental illnesses.”
Noting that “only four to five percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illness,” Dr. Jeste reminded the press that those with mental illnesses are rarely violent and are much more likely to be crime victims than crime perpetrators. Calling the use of the word “lunatic” by LaPierre “offensive,” Dr. Jeste said, “About one quarter of all Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, and only a very small percentage of them will ever commit violent crimes.”
The letter concludes with a statement from APA CEO James Scully, MD: “The idea that mental illness and evil are one and the same thing is simply a relic of the past and has no place in our public dialogue. People who are clearly not mentally ill commit violent crimes and perform terrible acts every day. Unfortunately, Mr. LaPierre’s statements serve only to increase the stigma around mental illness and further the misconception that those with mental disorders are likely to be dangerous.”
As our organization has been working to uncover research related to firearm injury, we stumbled on to an article published last week in one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals that goes a long way to explain why we’ve found our task so difficult. In short, pro-gun members of Congress successfully gutted any funding into firearm injury prevention starting in 1996 and continuing through today.
The article, published December 21 in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), describes how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was silenced in the late 1990s when the CDC lost $2.6 million for research into firearm injury — and that was after Congress members failed to completely eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control as they had tried to do first.
It was no coincidence that the $2.6 million removed from the CDC’s budget in 1996 happened to be the direct amount previously budgeted for firearm injury prevention research. Though that precise amount was added back into the budget as the bill moved forward, it was “earmarked for traumatic brain injury.” The final bill even included the language “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Such expansive language basically shut down any firearm research at the CDC, lest such research be considered something that advocated for gun control and thereby cost them their careers. And it didn’t stop there. Two years after a 2009 study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism looked at the association between risk of firearm assault and carrying a firearm, Congress expanded the funding restriction to all agencies at the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health.
The article is worth a thorough read to learn just how successfully pro-gun members of Congress and the gun lobby have managed to completely shut down well-funded scientific research into prevention of injury and death related to guns. It’s true that violent crime and gun-related crime has been on a continual decline in the U.S. over the past two decades. But any crime is too much, and it’s reasonable to expect we might have made even more progress had our top public health researchers and health-related government agencies been allowed the opportunity to research how.
We will be gradually updating our website with reports and research related to gun violence both within the U.S. and across the world. This is our first entry of this sort in which we’ve summarized a UN report on murders across the world.
You can download the pdf here of the global study on homicide, commissioned by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2011. This study seeks to provide a global overview of homicides by using a comprehensive collection of cross-national and time series homicide statistics. The statistical evidence and analyses in the study are meant to increase our understanding of the trends and patterns of homicide. The goal is to use the data to help develop effective policies that would curb lethal violence and its side effects.
Two conclusions the authors determined regarding firearms based on the data:
- A significant body of research indicates that firearm availability predominantly represents a risk factor rather than a protective factor for homicide.
- Countries in the Americas show a strong correlation between homicide rates and the percentage of homicides by firearms.
Things to note before reading study
- For the purposes of the study the term “homicide” refers to “intentional homicides” in which the perpetrator intended for their actions to cause death or serious injury. This EXCLUDES: deaths related to crimes of passion, deaths related to negligence or recklessness by the perpetrator as well as deaths that were considered justifiable such a self defense.
- The term “The Americas” refers to a region of multiple countries in both North America and South America. The data from the United States is included in the data for this region. When referring to Northern America, they mean Bermuda, Canada and the United States. More »