An Important Reference Work On Gun Violence.

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              I have just finished reading and studying a collection of articles which together constitutes the most important reference work on gun violence which currently exists. The book, Pediatric Firearm Injuries and Fatalities, is a collection of 15 articles edited by Eric Fleegler and Lois Lee, both of whom are pediatric-ER doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, so they’ve seen plenty of gun injuries over the years. You can buy the book here.

              The collection is described as a ‘Clinician’s Guide to Policies and Approaches to Firearm Violence.’ Each contribution is a summary of research on a particular aspect of gun violence, along with copious footnotes and ‘Take Home Points,’ the latter lists some basic strategies that clinicians can use for responding to injuries caused by guns.

              Let’s be clear. This isn’t a collection of original, evidence-based articles. It’s a collection of articles which summarize all of the research which has been done to date on specific aspects of gun violence, in particular gun violence which impacts kids. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that by limiting the contents to pediatrics, that you won’t get an overview of gun-violence issues as a whole. Because pediatrics happens to include everyone up to age twenty-four, and by that age you are looking at a majority of the gun-violence events which occur every year.

              This encyclopedic work is divided into two sections: risks and interventions. The risks are homicides and assaults, accidents, suicides, international comparisons, and school shootings. The interventions cover counseling patients before and after shootings, community-based programs, safety design for guns and legislative advocacies.

              Together, these articles cover just about every aspect of what clinicians need to know in order to develop effective responses to gun violence. Together, the articles cite more than 700 references to evidence-based research which means that this work is not ground in opinion but in facts, a welcome change from the way most gun discussions are framed.

              That being said, as usual I have several issues with specific content in this valuable collection which need to be raised. First and foremost is the degree to which public health gun research continues to focus the research on every issue except what I consider to be the most important issue, namely, how, and why gun violence actually takes place.

              The articles which define gun risk are overwhelmingly based on CDC data which tells us all about the victims of gun violence but nothing about the perpetrators of same. I don’t understand how public health researchers can refer to the ‘epidemiology’ of this particular health threat when little, if any time is spent trying to figure out how and why a certain population uses a gun in what the gun industry would call an ‘inappropriate’ way. After all, shooting someone isn’t the usual way that a dispute between two people is resolved.

              Because we know very little about who actually shoots guns inappropriately, how can we really create effective public policies and clinical procedures for reducing such behaviors? I don’t think, in fact, that we should assume that evidence-based research on gun violence can guide our policy strategies when the evidence tells us little, if anything about the people whose behavior we are trying to change. I should add, by the way, that in 4 of the 5 states which implemented comprehensive background checks after Sandy Hook, gun violence rates went up, not down.

              Finally, I have a big problem with the degree to which the entire gun-control community – physicians, researchers, advocates – invariably propose linking up to every relevant ‘stakeholder’ in the gun violence debate with the exception of the most important stakeholders of all – the companies who manufacture the guns.

              If you believe that companies like Glock or Smith & Wesson aren’t concerned about gun violence and gun safety, this only demonstrates that you haven’t gone into a gun shop and purchased a new gun. Because every gun shipped from a factory to a retailer must have a warning which says that the gun, if misused, could result in injury or death. And the warning is printed in big, red letters, okay?

              I’m not saying the gun industry isn’t culpable for many of the injuries and trauma caused by the products they make and sell. What I am saying is that I don’t understand how you can regulate any industry without bringing the representatives of that industry into the discussion as well.

              Those caveats aside, Fleegler and Lee have published a volume which everyone needs to read.  Got something better to do in the Age of Covid-19?

Want To Be A Responsible Gun Owner? Try A Video Game.

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              Now that Joe has finally put Trump where he belongs and we can get back to discussions about what needs to be done and how to do it, one of the things which may or may not get done is another law that would go somewhat further in terms of regulating guns. After all, Joe made a point of talking about gun violence during his campaign, he also didn’t do bad when it came to getting big bucks from America’s Number One Anti-Gunner (i.e., Mayor Mike Bloomberg), and he’s got a blue Senate and House. What else do you need?

              What you need, it seems to me, is an honest and realistic understanding of how and why so many Americans really like to play around with guns. And it’s not just the pandemic that got people scared so they ran out and bought another gun. That was a convenient story told on both sides of the gun debate but there were and other reasons why gun sales continue to keep companies like Smith & Wesson in the black.

              Ever hear of a video game called Valheim? It’s an RPG video game (RPG meaning ‘role-playing’ game) which you play either alone or with friends on the internet. The first week it went up it sold a million copies. It continues to sell a million copies every week and has been reviewed by more than 60,000 users on a game store website called Steam.

              Valheim combines the two elements that usually make a video game popular – mythology and violence. In this case the player becomes a mythical warrior from some frozen zone, and he fashions a weapon which he then uses to defend himself from his foes. The whole point of the game is to kill as many of the ‘enemy’ as you can.

              Want to see the kind of video game which represents more than 90 percent of all video games bought and played? Go back to Steam and try a game called Zero Caliber.  The player is a battle-hardened veteran who runs around in some dangerous city somewhere in Iraq, or maybe Syria, or maybe Afghanistan. The point of the game is to shoot and kill as many of the ‘enemy’ as you can. You can enlist other players and lead a whole squad into battle as well. Of course, you have the choice of an AR, a handheld Uzi, or any one of a number of weapons that can spray endless rounds all over the place.

              One of the issues that will surely gather steam in Gun-control Nation is how to talk to Gun-nut Nation about the risk of guns. This discussion has been going on for years, and it tends to turn on defining proper gun behavior in terms of ‘responsibility,’ or ‘safety,’ or ‘common sense,’ the theory being that if gun owners behave responsibly with their guns, then gun violence will go down.

              What does it mean to be a ‘responsible’ gun owner?  It means locking the gun up or locking it away so that it can’t get into the hands of the little kids. So, the responsible gun owner goes to Home Depot, buys a gun safe for a thousand bucks or so, shleps it home, sticks it somewhere out of the way and tried to remember to always keep the guns in the safe.

              Meanwhile, here’s Dad struggling to push or pull his gun safe into the basement or maybe a corner of the room where his wife does the wash, and the guy’s teen-age son is sitting in front of the TV which is hooked up to a computer, and the computer is downloading a shooting video game from Steam.

              The game only costs $24.95, it will keep Junior occupied for the entire day. And since Junior can still only go to school every other day for the remainder of this year, a shooting video game is worth its weight in gold.

              I’m still waiting for the very first gun-control group to spend even five minutes talking about how to teach a 12-year-old to play a shooting game in a ‘responsible’ way.