The Hypocrisy of Addressing Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis

President Biden is considering the idea of declaring gun violence a public health emergency. This would be a convenient excuse to ram through many gun control proposals that, as of right now, do not appear likely to pass in the senate. Viewing gun violence as a public health crisis is not Biden’s idea, nor is it a new one. It is a policy agenda that was enacted by the Obama administration and, like so many other agenda items, carried right on through Trump’s administration as well. President Obama’s Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who was just confirmed for a second time, organized a lobby group called Doctor’s for Obama which not only lobbied for Obamacare but also the passage of gun control under the guise of a national health crisis. Some of these laws included restructuring the background check system and the implementation of laws like extreme risk protection orders, aka, red flag laws. President Trump signed the fix NICS bill and urged Congress to pass red flag laws. Gun control is a prime example, despite what people may think, of both parties working together.

What does it mean to mean to enact a public health crisis agenda in terms of gun control? For years, gun control advocates argued that there were no sufficient means of acquiring sufficient data to study the realities of gun violence in America. Part of Obama’s executive actions on guns enabled the federal government to fund research efforts aimed at taking a public health approach to the issue. One result of this effort was the CDC admitting that firearms are used defensively up to two million times a year. This will not stop them from pursuing this agenda, however, as pushing gun violence as a public health crisis is once again at the forefront.

According to the article Public Health Approach to the Prevention of Gun Violence,[1] published in the New England Journal of Medicine by David Hemenway and Matthew Miller, the public health approach is applied to many issues ranging from alcoholism and other health-related problems, to even attempting to end war. It is a four-step, scientific approach used in solving any social issue that entails defining the problem, identifying risk and protection factors, developing and testing prevention strategies and, ensuring widespread adoption of proven reforms. Hemenway and Miller (2013) state that the public health approach examines all possibilities, including changing existing laws and social norms and bringing in as many organizations as possible to help define and solve the problem. They also state that it is effective to implement a system of shared responsibility. For example, stating that gun owners’ refusal to surrender their rights, or support further restrictions, are responsible whenever there is a shooting. This is an approach that is widely used. An article written by a man named Daniel Hayes entitled, I am an AR-15 owner and I have had enough is an attempt at changing social norms by portraying a man having second thoughts about gun ownership in response to a recent shooting.

To implement the public health approach effectively, Hemenway and Miller (2013) state that effective methods of acquiring data are needed. Without necessary reforms to the current background check system, they argue, it is impossible to get accurate data because people can get guns without going through a registered dealer. Arguing for a universal background check, from the perspective of the public health crisis approach, is necessary not to limit the individual right to keep and bear arms, but to collect data to pinpoint the root causes of gun violence. Hemenway and Miller (2013) also state that the need for individual licensing and, for gun manufacturers to take actions such as redesigning guns and micro-stamping would be effective methods of reducing gun violence under this model as well. They laughably show their ignorance of guns in this area as they suggest guns should be designed so they do not “go off” when dropped. Guns generally do not go off when dropped which is why you often hear trainers tell students to let them fall if they drop them.

The people pushing gun control are the same people who have pushed the anti-police narrative. One policy that was not discussed in Hemenway and Miller’s article was stricter enforcement of current laws and, holding those who commit gun violence accountable. In an article entitled Expanding the Public Health Approach to Gun Violence[2], published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the author Phillip J. Cook Ph.D. states that the public health approach itself does not examine the realities of effective policing. Cook (2018) states that arresting and punishing those guilty of committing gun violence would serve as the best deterrent of future violent behavior. Cook (2018) is specifically speaking about places like Chicago, and other inner-city environments where gang activity is high, and murders routinely go unsolved. While this article supports the public health approach, Cook (2018) states that effective policing and arresting violent perpetrators is so important in reducing gun violence, it is unfortunate that the medical establishment, in its push for gun control, has refused to consider it.

Failing to acknowledge the effectiveness of proper policing and the public health approach itself, could contribute to the problem they are trying to solve. Chicago is known for having the strictest gun laws, and the highest rate of gun-related crime. Ironically, the public health approach is being used in Chicago. An article entitled Cure Violence: A Public Health Model to Reduce Gun Violence[3] states that enforcement-based models depend too much on bureaucratic institutions which cost the public valuable resources.  Instead, a model focusing on changing social norms is being used. The cure violence model, as they refer to it in the article, involves the use of specially trained individuals called violence interrupters who pay close attention to what is happening in their assigned neighborhoods. They attempt to intervene when it is known that a certain gang member, for example, intends to commit an act of gun violence in retaliation to a perceived affront by trying to convince them that violence is not the answer. Another key component of the cure violence model is the outreach worker. Both the violence interrupter and outreach worker must be credible and trustworthy in the eyes of those that may be willing to commit murder. Outreach workers are like social workers and are responsible for connecting individuals who may be at risk of committing gun violence with jobs and other social programs, like free housing and education. The biggest goal of the outreach worker is to “facilitate the process by which potentially violent individuals learn to think differently about violence and begin to change their behavior accordingly” (Butts, Roman, Bostwick & Porter, 2015).

The public health model claims to take a four-step approach in solving gun violence by defining the problem, identifying risk and protection factors, developing and testing prevention strategies, and ensuring widespread adoption of proven reforms. What it does show is the bias in those pushing the model and, their willingness to ignore real data in favor of reforms that push their agenda. There is no proof, for example, that instituting universal background checks or licensing reduces gun violence in any way. In fact, according to the article by Cook (2018), there hasn’t been an honest effort to understand what caused the decreasing rates of gun violence the country has been witnessing since the 1990s. It also shows their bias towards law enforcement as they ignore any data that shows how effective it is to punish those committing gun crimes in favor of policies that have no teeth. Those pushing the public health approach claim on one hand that they need data to identify the people who are prone to committing gun violence, and the weapons they may possess. They demand universal background checks, red-flag laws, licensing, and bans on certain firearms under a false scientific consensus that it will reduce gun violence while ignoring that these provisions are in full effect in places like Chicago where they have implemented the ridiculous “cure violence” program. They know who is prone to committing gun violence in Chicago and their response is free housing and education. The law-abiding gun owners, people with no inclination to commit crime, are the target, as usual. If they genuinely cared about gun violence and its effects on the communities who suffer from it, they would take an enforcement-based approach to those they know are committing it, not provide them with social workers who try to convince them to change their behavior. How ridiculous.


[1] Hemenway, D. & Miller, M. (2013) Public Health Approach to the Prevention of Gun Violence. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(21) Retrieved from Liberty University database

[2] Cook, J. P. (2018) Expanding the Public Health Approach to Gun Violence. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169 (10) Retrieved from Liberty University database

[3] Butts, A, J., Roman, G, C., Bostwick, L. & Porter, J, R. (2015) Cure Violence: A Public Health Model to Cure Gun Violence. Annual Review of Public Health

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