Gun violence plagues America but possible solutions are in sight

By Melchior Tuerk

Elm Staff Writer

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the United States of America has seen over 11,000 deaths caused by guns in 2023.

            Gun control debates typically revolve around the abundant school shootings in the U.S., as well as the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects an individual’s right to bear arms for the defense of independent of the state.

            In more recent decades gun owners have used this amendment to prevent gun control laws from passing. AK-47s and AR-15s, developed long after the writing of the Constitution, are not the arms the founding fathers had in mind, but many conservatives still cling to the second amendment for buoyancy in bipartisan debates.

            Many Republican lawmakers are pushing for legislation to arm teachers, a proposal that increases exposure to guns rather than decreasing it. According to The Washington Post, representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) got into an argument after Massie said, “There’s never been a shooting at a school that allows teachers to carry.”

            Bowman, previously a middle school principal, called for Republicans to support gun control following the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tenn. “Are they going to those funerals?” he yelled, “No!”

            Democrats have been pushing for gun control and gun safety laws for a long time, but pushback from Republicans makes progress difficult. Change is impossible without compromise, and the solution to gun violence must involve a comprehensive set of strategies.

            While gun control is not solely a political issue, policy plays a critical role. Keep an eye on Senate Bill 25 (Assault Weapons Ban of 2023) at a federal level and SB0001 (Gun Safety Act of 2023) in Maryland.

            When the government will not help, Americans are known for taking matters into their own hands. According to Johns Hopkins, community violence interventions identify and support individuals who are at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence. Some of these programs equip at-risk individuals with nonviolent conflict response, provide life coaching and dispute mediation, and connect survivors with resources.

            The Center for American Progress explains how the community and government can work together using extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) to temporarily remove a weapon from the possession of an individual who poses a risk to themselves or others. ERPO laws are not currently available in every state, but according to Sandy Hook Promise, states with ERPO laws see a reduction in firearm suicide and mass shootings.

            Recently, the National Institute of Healthcare for Management Foundation diagnosed gun violence as a public health crisis. They also report that guns are the leading cause of death for children and Black men under 55.

            But the impacts of gun violence do not stop at a gunshot wound.

            According to Everytown for Gun Safety, those who survive shootings often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues, and many communities with high rates of gun violence experience “community trauma.” These communities are often made up of marginalized groups, specifically Black individuals.

            In an NPR interview with Mark Rosenberg, who helped establish the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Rosenberg says for gun violence to be addressed as a public health issue it must be “based on science…focused on prevention. And… collaborative by nature.” While Rosenberg and the CDC struggled to gain governmental funding to research gun violence in the past, recently funded research includes studying the implementation of ERPO laws, individual and social factors that contribute to firearm risks for homeless youth, and patient-centered engagement in healthcare settings to prevent firearm suicide.

            With hundreds of Americans experiencing gun violence every day, the issue has shifted from a political issue to a sociopolitical issue. It seems Rosenberg’s public health approach – which focuses on science, prevention, and collaboration – is the most effective way to lower gun violence in the United States.

            The answer may be a combination of ERPO and gun regulation laws and community intervention programs. Glaser’s “smart gun technology” initiatives would also be effective, which focuses on decreasing the number of homicides and suicides.

            Whatever the solution is, we must find it post haste: we cannot lose any more lives.

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