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- Many approaches focusing simply on gun safety education have not been effective. Gun safety education aimed at children was found to have no impact on a child’s interest in picking up, and pretending to fire, a test gun. Gun safety curricula taught through schools have generally not been effective.
- Putting guns in the classroom is likely to put children at higher risk. There have been recent calls to suggest that teachers keep a gun in the classroom, or to post armed guards at schools. There is no evidence that this approach would work.
We may be at a tipping point, a point at which people from all walks of life — parents, law enforcement officials, hunters, target shooters, public health and health care professionals, and others — can find common ground. A recent national survey, fielded in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, showed remarkable levels of agreement on policies to reduce gun violence. including: requiring universal background checks for all gun sales (supported by 89 percent) and prohibiting gun ownership by high-risk individuals, including those convicted of a serious crime as juveniles (83 percent) and those convicted of violating a domestic-violence restraining order (81 percent). Some of these policies won strong support from NRA members; for instance, 74 percent of NRA members supported universal background checks.
So what’s next? First, we need to reframe the conversation about gun violence. As a public health challenge that extracts a heavy toll on our communities, it requires public health solutions. This approach will be presented and discussed at Town Hall Seattle on Monday evening.
Next, we need to know more about the patterns of gun violence, and about what steps are most effective in preventing it. We are delighted that President Obama has lifted a longstanding ban on research on gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Better data will lead to better understanding, which will help craft the best policies.
Finally, we need policies such as the ones discussed above — policies that are effective, that are based on solid evidence and that balance gun-owners’ rights with the community’s interest in reducing gun violence. We are pleased that public discussion of such policies has blossomed in recent weeks (although we mourn the event that set it off). This is the time to protect public health by preventing gun violence.
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