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The Relationship between Gun Ownership and Public Health

This paper seeks to trace the relationship between gun ownership and public health. It is said that in the United States, there are more than three hundred million firearms with nearly a third being handguns. Americans own guns for various reasons. These include hunting, self-defense, target practice and weapon collection. However, in recent times, the noble uses and reasons for gun ownership have been abused. Estimates show that on an average day during the 1990s in the United States, firearms were used to kill approximately ninety civilians and injure about four hundred more. Every day firearms were also utilized in the commission of around four thousand criminal acts. When placed in contrast to other industrialized nation, the United States tops the list for the largest number of gun crimes committed per annum. The United States is further distinguished by its staggering level of fatal aggression. In 1992, the United States’ murder rate was six times more elevated than the standard industrialized nation.

The objective of public health is not to campaign for the abolishment or strict regulation of guns. The text describes the public health approach to injury prevention. The effects of firearms on public health are broad and include both intentional and unintentional shootings, both self-inflicted and inflicted by others. Furthermore, the paper describes some policies that should reduce injuries from firearms. These policies would do little to affect the limited safety benefits derived from firearms but would substantially reduce the serious health and human problems.

Public health documentation lays the blame of deaths and injuries caused by guns squarely on poor regulation and control of firearms. In order to prove this point, a study was conducted comparing the United States to three other countries; Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These countries were chosen due to their economic, social and historical similarities with the United States. The results showed that the United States beat all the countries in terms of poor firearm control, and topped the list of firearm casualties and fatalities per annum. The study proved that the United States has higher suicide and murder rates, almost exclusively as a result of the higher firearm casualty rates. The United States has eight times the gun suicide levels and equal non firearm suicide rate as the other countries.

 The cumulative number of guns owned by civilians has augmented speedily in the last forty years. Seventy five percent of all new firearms bough in the United States in the last century were purchased after 1965. The type of firearm sought also differs. In 1965, only twenty five percent of the annual additions to the stock of guns were handguns. By 1995, that figure had doubled to fifty percent and currently stands at seventy percent. The number of households owning a firearm has decline. This could be attributed to the increase in firearms owned per individual. Roughly 45 percent of grown-up males and 15 percent of grown-up females are firearm owners. Firearm owners come from the entire spectrum of American society.

 Demographic studies have, however, shown that firearm ownership is higher in countryside areas than metropolitan areas; ownership also differs depending on the geographic regions. For instance, it is highest among families in the Rocky Mountain region and the South and lowest in the Northeastern states. The rate is much lower among moderates and liberals than with the conservatives. Another predictor for gun ownership is whether or not one’s parents owned a firearm.

In the past, firearm assaults were considered almost entirely as a criminal justice predicament, firearm suicides as a psychological health issue and inadvertent firearm wounds as a security issue. However, the proactive and more successful public health approach indicates that the most hopeful strategy to moderate firearm damage is to stress avoidance of guns, concentrate on the society, use an extensive range of policies, and mobilize various interest groups. The objective of public health is not to establish fault or to reprimand perpetrators. Rather, public health concentrates unswervingly on prevention and eliminating the problem before something terrible happens. The public health approach is epidemiological and aims at first identifying the risk factors, trends, and causes of firearm problems. Thereafter, a solution to the problem is conducted through political rallying and social support. In the United States, gun violence is a modern-day public health epidemic. Thwarting firearm violence is not only an individual (e.g., parental) endeavor but also communal responsibility. Coming up with support for communal efforts to diminish firearm violence is an existing test for public health.

The American firearm situation is further complicated by the attitudes by policy makers. Most policy makers divide citizens into criminals and law-abiding citizens. This mentality drives policy makers to make policies that aim at empowering the good guys and weakening the bad guys. This take has been proven faulty in more ways than one. Taking away guns from the bad guys or adding severe laws restricting gun ownership does not necessarily mean fewer suicides homicides or accidental injuries. Sociologist J.D. Wright claims that "everything the bad guys do with their guns is already against the law," so gun control is futile because criminals are "indifferent to our laws". "It is more than a little peculiar to suppose that citizens who regularly violate laws against assault, robbery or murder would one way or another find themselves coerced to comply with gun laws".

Between 1960 and start of the millennium, an excess of sixty five thousand Americans lost their lives as a result of inadvertent firearm shootings. Young people are the primary victims. More than half of all unintentional firearm fatalities are individuals under twenty-five years of age. Where there are more guns, there are more accidental gun deaths. The large majority of wounds are self-inflicted, and most are caused by handguns. Injuries occur during fairly routine gun handling-cleaning a gun, loading and unloading, hunting, target shooting, and so forth. A funny point to note is that, for other products, our society takes many reasonable actions to reduce injuries. Government has helped to create safety standards for chain saws and lawn mowers, which never caused as many unintentional fatalities as guns.

There are numerous cases and circumstances of firearm accidents. Various states have passed different legislation to minimize the number of firearm accidents. For instance, mandatory safety standards are needed to prohibit the manufacture of firearms that cannot pass a basic drop test. This is to prevent accidents as a result of fallen firearms. It is estimated that there were approximately one thousand hunter-related casualties in 1997- 98 in the United States and parts of Canada. Several preventive measures could be employed to reduce the number hunting accidents. Hunters in North Carolina are required to wear a bright, orange, protective article of clothing while in the woods. Firearm manufacturers are now required to produce guns with loaded-chamber indicators that alert the user that the gun's chamber contains a bullet and by magazine disconnect devices (magazine safeties) that avert a firearm from going off when the bullets magazine has been detached, even when a bullet remains in the chamber. A noteworthy fact is that most youngsters fire guns that belong to their parents. Manufacturers could produce firearms that are personalized or designed so that only authorized users could fire them. To this end, manufacturers could incorporate current technology such as magnetic devices, radio frequency transponders, and combination locks-into guns. A personalized gun would be inoperable not only by a curious child but also by a depressed teenager or a thief. Such unsophisticated measures could spell out the difference between life and death in numerous situations.


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