Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue


Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney and co-founder of the national coalition Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

Eighteen shootings in or near a school in six weeks. Words fail us, and they should — because expressions of sympathy, without action, dishonor the memories of those who perish.

What should our national agenda be? We should view gun violence as a public health issue, and rely on hard facts as our guide. Data tell us certain people are at higher risk of committing acts of violence. So we should prevent subjects of even temporary domestic violence restraining orders, violent misdemeanants, those who’ve been involuntarily hospitalized after a psychotic episode, and repeat DUI offenders from having firearms, at least for an extended period.

Nearly all Americans — except a majority in Congress — believe in universal background checks. Require them. There is promising research into so-called smart guns — firearms that can be fired only by their authorized user. Researchers report that the major source of guns used in the commission of crimes in L.A. is lost or stolen weapons. What if a thief couldn’t operate a gun that wasn’t his? What if a teen couldn’t fire her parents’ gun when suicide seemed the only answer?

Speaking of criminals and kids gaining access to guns, a nationwide campaign for safe gun storage should draw support from everyone. Yet only 16 states have laws compelling safe storage. My office prosecutes adults whose kids get access to guns that haven’t been locked away at home and are then brought to school. How much better it would be if these prosecutions weren’t necessary.

And how much better it would be if sorrow were replaced by outrage, focus and the courage to prevent the next atrocity.

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