What If Gun Violence Were Treated Like Pollution?

| 12/5/2008 4:41:06 PM

Leave aside the fever-pitched bickering about gun control—all the condescending talk of hicks clinging to guns and the machismo stubbornness of prying a pistol from somebody’s cold dead hands. Instead, imagine a new approach: What if illegal guns were treated like pollution and gun violence like a public health problem?

The Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine spotlights this tack, launched by the university’s Center for Gun Policy and Research, in its fall 2008 issue:

When a community knows that its water and land are being poisoned by effluent from a chemical factory, or its air is being rendered foul by smokestacks, it goes after those polluters to protect the health of its people. The approach taken by the epidemiologists, public health experts and lawyers at the Center for Gun Policy and Research is the same: “Where are these guns coming from? It’s not like they spontaneously generated in the forest—‘Oh look, a baby gun!’” says Stephen Teret, [the center’s founder]. “The loading docks of the gun manufacturers are the point sources of this pollution.”

The center uses a mixed staff of lawyers, epidemiologists, researchers, and policy experts to deploy a battery of strategies ranging from legal challenges to legislative advocacy to hardcore data-sifting to working with state and local officials to track illegal gun dealers.

You can learn more about the center at its website. Also check out a handy sidebar to the magazine’s main article on how to build a safer gun.

Bruian Webster
12/11/2008 9:52:38 PM

My only feeling about guns is this. If you have a gun you must carry Insurance for it. A gun, impropery used, can create a lot of damage and any sufferer from a gun inflicted wound should be granted ample funds for his or her wounds, including physical and mental. Even pointing a gun should be grounds for an insurance claim. I don't want to ban guns, just make sure that only responsible people can own them.

z. alexandra_1
12/11/2008 6:36:27 PM

we already treat gun violence like pollution; we only get upset when there's a really big example, like a city's water supply being poisoned or a school-full of children being shot

12/11/2008 1:17:17 PM

What a misguided piece by this reporter, which led us to believe that new and viable way of thinking was about to emerge about how Americans deal with their reality. But the notion--put forth by the Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine--that the way to curb gun violence is to cripple firearms manufacturers is ludicrous. When Stephen Teret says “The loading docks of the gun manufacturers are the point sources of this pollution,” he's ignoring the real problem, and that's human behavior. A gun isn't a weapon until it's in the hands of someone who decides it's a weapon, just as a baseball bat or an automobile or guilt isn't a weapon until any of them are in the hands of abusers. Further, the metaphor that gun violence is pollution is so inept as to raise questions about the thought processes of those who thought it up. Treating gun violence as pollution is a noble idea. Attacking gun manufacturers as the cause--or source--of gun violence is shortsighted and simplistic. Until this country discovers how to treat its citizens with dignity and respect, violence of all ilks will continue to dog us.

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