“We have a public health issue to discuss. Do we wait for the next outbreak or is there something we can do to prevent it?”
That quote came from Dr. Stephen Hargarten, emergency medicine chief at Froedtert Hospital and director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It appeared in an Associated Press article on the Huffington Post on Aug. 11, two days before three people, including the gunman, were killed near Texas A&M University.
About three weeks before the quote was published, a gunman in Aurora, Colo., killed 12 people and injured 58 at a midnight movie screening. About two weeks after that incident, seven people were killed when a man opened fire in a Sikkh temple outside Milwaukee. Hargarten, a gun violence expert, treated some of the victims of that shooting, the AP reported.
Now Hargarten and others in the medical community are advocating taking a public health approach to try to curb the problem of gun violence, the report stated.
Although not a new approach, the idea of treating gun violence as a health issue is similar to how “the highway safety measures, product changes and driving laws that slashed deaths from car crashes decades ago, even as the number of vehicles on the road rose,” the report stated.
Can a health response succeed where legal and political measures have failed? Maybe. Yet as a country, we have the maturity of a tantrum-prone 6-year-old when it comes to discussing the issues. Guns and gun violence are part of the holy trinity of social issues—along with sex education and marijuana legalization—that U.S. citizens seem genetically incapable of introducing to the public discourse with any type of sophistication. Think of it as sex, drugs and lock and load. Eventually a gun debate, no matter how good its intentions are in the beginning, becomes nothing more than straw-man arguments, defensive posturing and all-or-nothing fear-mongering.
And that’s F-word at the heart of any gun debate. Not “freedom,” but “fear.” Fear of being defenseless. Fear of having freedom stripped away. Fear of what the wrong people will do with their freedom. With all that fear, no wonder everyone’s scared to talk calmly about it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is a health-issue approach to gun violence worth pursuing? If not, what solutions to the problem should the U.S. investigate? Take our poll and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.
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