This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Guns are a Public Health Risk in the U.S.--Redux

It is painful to note that it was scarcely a month ago that I blogged about the fact that guns are a public health problem in the United States. That was in reference to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but Sunday's massacre at a church in Sutherland Spring, Texas, has raised that issue again. Nicholas Kristof has a very good Op-Ed in today's NYTimes laying out the case--yet again. His approach is one that makes sense, and could (please!) be politically palatable both to gun-owners and non-owners--following what we did for automobiles by making them safer.
Gun enthusiasts often protest: Cars kill about as many people as guns, and we don’t ban them! No, but automobiles are actually a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting.

We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them – and limit access to them – so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921.

Take a look at the history of motor vehicle safety since World War II:
It took a long time to make cars safer, but we've done a good job of this. The sooner we start on making guns safer, the better off we will all be.
Some of you will protest, as President Trump did, that it’s too soon to talk about guns, or that it is disrespectful to the dead to use such a tragedy to score political points. Yet more Americans have died from gun violence, including suicides, since 1970 (about 1.4 million) than in all the wars in American history going back to the Revolutionary War (about 1.3 million). And it’s not just gang-members: In a typical year, more pre-schoolers are shot dead in America (about 75) than police officers are.

Yes, making America safer will be hard: There are no perfect solutions. The Second Amendment is one constraint, and so is our polarized political system and the power of the gun lobby. It’s unclear how effective some of my suggestions will be, and in any case this will be a long, uncertain, uphill process.
We cannot sit back passively and wait for things to happen. People need to talk to their members of Congress, non-profit organizations need to get involved, and the gun manufacturers need to be brought into the dialogue, just as auto manufacturers were. 

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