Guns kill a lot of young people in the United States. Not just in school shootings or horrific “accidents” between toddlers that tend to garner the most media attention, but in every day shootings in communities around the country that result in the deaths of thousands of children and teenagers.
In 2010, 6,201 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died by gunfire, wrote Chelsea Parsons in Think Progress.
Guns were a close second to the leading cause of death among this age group, car accidents, which took the lives of 7,024 young people that year. But, while car accident deaths among young people have been steadily declining over the past decade, gun deaths have remained relatively unchanged. According to a new Center for American Progress report if current trends continue, gun deaths will surpass car accident deaths among young people sometime in 2015.
Unfortunately, since the early 1990s, very few public health researchers have been trying to find out. Restrictions on such research imposed by Congress have had a substantial chilling effect, which has resulted in the almost total abandonment of this issue by our nation’s public health research institutions. Without this research, policymakers, legislators, community leaders, and parents are left without much direction regarding how to best protect children and teenagers from gun violence.
As we approach that morbid milestone next year when gun violence kills more American children and teenagers than car accidents, it’s time to start approaching this problem in the same manner as we addressed car accident deaths. We know how to do this –-through a combination of public health research, technological innovation, legislative change, enhanced enforcement, and transforming cultural norms we were able to make motor vehicle transportation safer while at the same time preserving American’s unique car culture.
We can do the same thing with gun violence by adopting laws and policies designed to prevent gun deaths while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
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