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February 25, 2019

Firearm Policies That Work

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • 2Center for Gun Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2019;321(10):937-938. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0706

The United States is among the global leaders in firearm injury deaths. In 2016, an estimated 37 000 firearm-related deaths occurred in the United States, ranking second only to Brazil.1 Although not a new development, the recent number of public mass shootings, particularly those occurring on school campuses, has increased support for stronger firearm laws and many state lawmakers have voted for laws designed to keep firearms from dangerous individuals. Federal and state laws prohibit some high-risk individuals from purchasing or possessing firearms due to convictions for serious crimes, restraining orders, or involuntary commitments issued by judges. Courts have consistently found these laws to be constitutional, and some have been evaluated in rigorous research to determine their effectiveness. This body of research suggests that laws restricting access to firearms for individuals at high risk of the future commission of violence, based on their previous behaviors, may reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths. Importantly, not all states have these laws; thus, there remain opportunities for enactment and implementation of these laws with the goal of further reducing firearm violence.

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3 Comments for this article
Complex Issues
James Larsen, M.Ed. | Military
Lots of issues that can be broadly divided into prevention and response.

There are a variety of research studies by the FBI, Secret Service, IOM, RAND, etc. that bear on the issue.

Current law requires a background check on guns purchased through a dealer. However, individuals sell on their own, depending on state laws and their willingness to comply with them. (1)

The Secret Service recommends schools conduct a Threat Analysis. The problem being there may or may not be clear, actionable prior warning events/behaviors.

Law enforcement and medical responses to these events are
evolving. The Parkland study highlights lots of issues. (2)

My opinion is that emergency plans should use an OPLAN/OPORD format with OPLANS for every school, church, etc. that are practiced locally annually. Ideally, the entire system should be automated with real-time object-oriented management systems.

As the National Academy of Sciences suggests, 30,000 lives could be saved per year with broader first aid training. (3)

We all want safer communities and schools, but focusing on the current attack method de jour may not adequately address other attack methods (vehicles, fire, knives, bombs, etc.). Studies of attackers show they study their target's defenses and develop counter-measures.


1. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/03/us/how-mass-shooters-got-their-guns.html
2. http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MSDHS/CommissionReport.pdf
3. http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report Files/2016/Trauma-Care/Trauma-Care-Recs.pdf
Robert Margulies, MD MPH FACPM FACEP FACFE | Lourdes Health Network; Ret USN; Commissioned and Sworn Police Officer
The article focuses on a small subset of cases. No mention is made of the large number of cases in which a firearm preserved innocent life. Statistics will vary but range from five hundred thousand to two and a half million cases per year. The focus on partner violence is important, but ignores the big picture.
Given that there are approximately 33,000 firearms deaths a year; that approximately 20,000 are suicides; that approximately 7,000 are justifiable homicides, and some are accidents; we are left with approximately 6,000 criminal misuses of firearms resulting in deaths. A few cities account
for more than 2,000 cases, most of which are gang related and drug use/dealer related.

If every death is a tragedy, let's add some focus on medical errors; intoxicated, distracted drivers; and blunt object misuse. More people are killed in this country by hammers than rifles.

The point to be taken is that it is not the object used but the perpetrator. FBI statistics indicate that more than 80% of violent crimes are perpetrated by a person who has previously committed a violent crime. Society would be better served by removing violent criminals before they become recidivist.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Firearms safety instructor in both civilian and police capacities
Spurious arguments against reasonable firearm regulations
Jon Nowlin, BS Geology; Engineering | Concerned Citizen; Parent and Grandparent; Gun Owner
I am consistently bemused if not disturbed about the arguments against reasonable firearm regulations. What they ignore is the outrageous distortion of our civil culture in the U.S. since the NRA has brainwashed many in the electorate that the 2nd Amendment protects individual rights for self-expression with lethal weapons over safety of our society. Our political answers to current societal gun terrorism is to fortify schools, churches, public meeting places, and potentially arm everyone rather then institute reasonable limits on lethal weapons used by other modern nations. Statistical arguments are a diversion from the gun industries' funding of the NRA to continually sell weapons to civilians in an otherwise saturated market. As a gun owner I see no restriction posed by background checks and gun registrations to my reasonable purchase and ownership of a firearm for hunting, target shooting, or even self-protection. Without such regulations I fear for the safety of my grandchildren in our current warped societal worship of a misapplied Second Amendment.