Additional measures to thwart gun violence
The first is obtaining information. As every good researcher will tell you, a problem is impossible to solve unless you first gather good, credible, empirical data. This is the core principle on which all of science is predicated. And yet, tragically, data pertaining to gun violence was, until very recently, largely unavailable to public health experts due to a 1996 congressional amendment to a spending bill that forbade the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using public funds to study gun violence.
Thankfully, this restriction was finally removed last month, but that's only the first step. To obtain good data, it's critical that we make investment in research a priority so we may finally begin to understand what we're looking at.
Still, as is the case with any health crisis, a real breakthrough is rarely possible unless we raise public awareness. If that sounds too ephemeral, consider smoking: Another leading cause of death in America, we geared up to fight the damages caused by smoking by launching a far-reaching and effective campaign that included everything from attaching warning labels to cigarette packs, to providing smokers with education and alternatives. It helped: This January, the American Cancer Society reported that cancer deaths had fallen 26 percent from their peak in 1991, mainly due to the steep decline in the number of Americans who smoked.
We should and must do the same with guns. If we want real change, let's consider substituting the heated debate of mass marches and political feuds with the more level-headed language of the examination room. Only if we understand gun violence as a public health issue can we begin to get better.
This op-ed appeared in Thrive Global.