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Reducing Firearm Violence
Crime and Justice  (IF4.474),  Pub Date : 2017-01-01, DOI: 10.1086/688460
David Hemenway

The United States has an enormous public health and safety problem from guns. The number of American civilian gun deaths in the twenty-first century through 2015 is greater than the sum of all US combat deaths in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Given our love affair with guns, the overriding policy goal has to be to reduce the toll of deaths and injuries without substantially reducing the number of civilians with firearms. There are harm reduction lessons to be learned from many public health successes combating other kinds of foreseeable deaths and injuries. For example, motor vehicle deaths per mile driven have fallen more than 85 percent since the 1950s, primarily by making it harder for drivers to make mistakes or behave inappropriately and by reducing the likelihood of severe injury if they do. The success was not primarily due to changing drivers but to making cars and roads safer. The public health approach to guns is to make it difficult rather than easy for violence-prone, anger-prone, or other at-risk people to shoot and kill. Numerous policies and programs could help. Particularly promising ones include changing guns to make them safer, changing the distribution system, increasing gun owner responsibility, and creating a violence prevention administrative agency.