Gun Violence Epidemic is Not Inevitable

It’s Not Rocket Science

Marian Wright Edelman | 11/6/2013, 12:27 p.m.
Marian Wright Edelman tackles the issue of gun violence in America.
Marian Wright Edelman

“In the 1960s, when my grandfather was teaching me to drive in his little red Ford Falcon, there was an epidemic of deaths on the highways in the United States, and young people were dying in very large numbers.” That’s how Dr. Mark L. Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health, former assistant surgeon general, and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, recently began talking about today’s public health crisis for young people.

He continued. “And this country said, ‘We can’t let this happen. We’re going to stop it,’ and they took $200 million and said, ‘We’re going to invest in research on how to stop young people from losing their lives on the highway,’ and they did an amazing, amazing thing. The research that they supported, and they started the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that research led to redesigning cars completely . . . The front end of the cars we drive today crush like an accordion to protect us. We have side-impact protection, rollover protection, air bags . . . We redesigned the roads…We’ve gotten drunk drivers, to a huge extent, off the roads…What we did in the ’60s, redesigning the car, redesigning the roadway, redesigning the drivers, was a result of scientific research, and as a result we have saved, between the ’60s and the beginning of this century, 325,000 lives. That’s the result of science.”

Dr. Rosenberg is confident that America can save lives being lost in the current epidemic of gun violence that is the second leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1 – 19 and the number one cause of death among black children and teens. He believes this public health threat must be attacked just like all others—by using the power of science and evidence-based research: “We can apply the same science to firearm injuries and deaths of children, and it’s not rocket science.”

The Children’s Defense Fund partnered with Washington National Cathedral in a forum last month with leading experts on gun violence where Dr. Rosenberg shared his experience from key research from the 1990s.

“We set out to show that you could start a research program to find out how to prevent gun violence, just like you could reduce the number of fatalities on the roads, and I think one of the most striking findings from our research was designed to answer the question: Does having a gun in your home protect you, or does it put you and your family at risk? Because the people who make and sell guns and the National Rifle Association had a very strong vested interest in telling people, ‘You should get a gun and have it in your home for protection.’”

“So we tried to answer that question scientifically, and what we found was that not only did having a gun in your home not protect you, but it increased the risk that someone in your own home would be killed by a gun, not by 10 percent or 20 percent, that's how much of a risk you have to show to take a drug off the market; not by 100 percent or 200 percent, but 300 percent increase in the risk. And the risk that someone in your home would die from suicide with a gun, and I need to remind us that two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides, the risk that someone in your home would die from gun suicide went up not 300 percent, but 500 percent.