Preventing Gun Violence | By Sydney Rudko

Gun violence has been a hot topic in the media for a number of months now given the recent tragedies in the United States.  Recently, I was drawn to an article published in the January 7th edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association that provides a unique, and certainly thought-provoking, set of solutions to preventing gun violence based upon successful public health campaigns such as non-smoking, unintentional poisoning, and motor vehicle safety.

It’s hard to imagine guns as an issue of public health, and it’s hard to put mass shootings in the same category as smoking. Despite this, I believe a multifaceted public health approach could be exactly what this issue needs. The paper outlines concrete examples of successful public health solutions that could be applied to gun violence; some examples include safety features such as security locking devices, routine safety checks, education, and restrictions on particular firearms. However, these weren’t the suggestions in the article that really caught my attention. What I found particularly interesting were the parallels the authors drew between the prevention of gun violence and the prevention of smoking.

Image CC Imgur
If you don’t think that our perception of violence as a society is somewhat skewed, consider the James Bond franchise. The gunplay in these movies is rarely shocking. It barley phases audiences, whereas a movie like Quentin Taratino’s Django Unchained startles and disturbs audiences with its incredibly excessive violence. This observation in itself is indicative of our culture of violence. Directors must go to extraneous lengths to make us uncomfortable with violence.

While there is no doubt that everyone feels a sense of shock and horror whenever tragedies involving gun violence occur, we live in a culture in which violence, especially gun violence, is commonplace. The television shows we watch, the movies we see, and the video games our children play are often riddled with gunplay. The authors of this study take note of this, and compare it to the portrayal of smoking throughout the 20th century. Smoking was depicted as incredibly glamorous until a comprehensive media and educational campaign shifted the culture norm. This shift ultimately resulted in a huge reduction in the number of smokers. These authors argue a similar campaign needs to be launched against gun violence. Instead of watching programmes in which violence is glorified and normalized, we need to present gun use as cowardly and villainous. This might sound trivial given the gravity and complexity of the issue, yet it is small changes such as these that ultimately change the social perception towards gun violence.

The authors of this paper strongly support more traditional solutions to gun violence, such as those proposed last week by President Obama, but they argue that a broad-spectrum public health approach is necessary in order to effectively and comprehensibly find a solution to this issue. They argue that a “policy aimed exclusively at the individual perpetrator of gun violence would be no more effective than a motor vehicle injury prevention strategy focused only on the individual driver in a motor vehicle crash.”

Why do we wear seatbelts, or resolve to quit smoking and lose weight every year? We do it in part for ourselves, but also because these are the things that society expects from us. We are all responsible for ensuring we live in a safe environment. We might doubt the impact our own attitudes can have on our society, but the sooner we reject violence, the sooner we will live in a safer environment.

I would encourage you to access the original publication here for free before making up your mind on the issue. You can also read another interesting article on guns and youth here.

Image CC Crashworks on Flickr

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  • Ben Kostiuk

    Interesting, because smoking in movies pre-1990 was associated with cool characters, but not directly with the plot. Guns is much more prevalent in movies, without guns the hero’s would not be hero’s.
    There is a less there somewhere…

  • Education Reader

    Interesting that you call it “Preventing Gun Violence” but don’t actually get into the preventative methods. Perhaps the article should be called “Review From Some Article of the Journal of American Medical Association …”This topic has been so hotly debated in articles and on television and by celebrities as of late this article really falls flat in terms of making any actual argument or point for that matter. What about concrete numbers and examples of discussions that have been the focus as of late. Maybe try doing your research and actually formulating your opinion before putting pen to paper Ms. Rudko.

    • Sydney

      As I stated in my article my opinions are that of the original paper, the purpose of this article was to, instead of reiterating a published and well researched paper, draw attention to it for others, like yourself, to read. I kindly provided a link within the body of the article at your convenience.
      Thank you for your comments, Mr. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t leave a name.