Gun violence has become a nation-wide issue that might affect any person regardless of their status or location. According to Malina, Morrissey, Campion, Hamel, and Drazen (2016), more than 33,000 fatal cases involving firearm use were reported in 2013. People throughout the country are highly concerned about possible outcomes of violence, preventing strategies and policies. The main goal of this paper is to discuss the issue of gun violence and existing prevention measures.
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Public opinions on gun violence and preventing measures have drastically changed over recent years. Appalling mass shootings took place in several cities, taking the lives of hundreds of regular people. A horrifying tragedy struck the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 (Barry, McGinty, Vernick, & Webster, 2015). It happened several months after 70 people were shot in a movie house in Colorado. Two other mass shootings occurred in Arizona and Virginia. However, these dramas have common features. All criminals suffered mental disorders. Also, they fired guns with large-capacity magazines that let them shoot for a long period without reloading. Politicians that work on reducing gun violence should understand attitudes towards gun regulations among the general public. Also, they have to take into consideration the impact that such norms might have on mentally ill people.
In order to address these problems, two surveys were conducted. They provided “equal-probability sampling from a sample frame of residential addresses covering 97% of U.S. households” (Barry, McGinty, Vernick, & Webster, 2013, p. 1077). The first survey was on gun-policy. The second one was on mentally ill people. These surveys involved two different groups of respondents to avoid implicit memory effects. The gun-policy survey includes two categories of respondents: gun-owners and non-owners that live in families with guns. Around 33% of respondents admitted having a gun in their house or garage (Barry et al., 2013). However, in comparison with polls conducted in 2013, this number became lower. 23% of respondents personally own firearms, and 11% live in a household with a gun (Barry et al., 2013).
Regarding attitudes towards mental diseases, the respondents revealed contradictory feelings. Half of them thought that mentally ill people suffering from severe disorders are highly dangerous compared to other populations. Approximately a third of the respondents supposed that “locating a group residence” for mentally ill people in a residential neighborhood might put other civilians at risk (Barry et al., 2013, p. 1081). The majority of the respondents stated that they perceive mentally ill co-workers and neighbors as a threat. These surveys provided findings that demonstrate high support among American citizens, including those who own firearms, for preventing gun violence policies. Also, strategies that received the strongest support were aimed at assisting mentally ill people. Most Americans called for additional investments in “mental health treatment as a strategy for reducing gun violence” (Barry et al., 2013, 1081). However, people highlighted that it is necessary to avoid strategies that can discourage patients from getting treatment.
These data resulted in designing different measures. One of the most successful was the gun violence restraining order (GVRO) (Frattaroli, McGinty, Barnhorst, & Greenberg, 2015). The GRVO permits family members that witness hazardous actions of their relatives to request a GRVO. This order gives the authority to prohibit the possession of firearms by those individuals.
Homicides and Suicides
However, this problem also relates to firearm-involved homicides and suicides. Statistics show that the number of gun crimes among young black men has reduced, though firearm suicide rates among white people are increasing. Such suicides make up 60% of the overall number of fatal cases caused by gunfire in the United States (Webster, 2015). However, gun-violence prevention policies and programs mostly aimed at decreasing crime rates. Discussion on the effectiveness of such measures does not usually involve scientific analysis but comparison among various gun laws in order to make them either stricter or more liberal. However, it is necessary to take into consideration significant socio-demographic differences among states. Although these characteristics are difficult to measure, their impact on gun violence is crucial. Another important factor is the correlation between crime and suicide rates and existing gun-violence prevention policies.
The most common types of firearm policies aim to prevent criminals and other dangerous groups from having access to firearms. These policies set requirements that firearm sellers and customers have to meet to avoid the purchase and possession of guns by prohibited people. Such measures include background checks and record-keeping. Some laws showed positive results. The decrease in convictions for domestic violence and assaults is the main indicator. However, other laws are not so effective and require further discussion and improvement. The effect of gun policies is considered to be greater in regions where firearm sellers conduct profound background research, checks of records of disqualifying conditions, and licensing procedures that involve individual applications for a permit.
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However, there are various studies that analyze data from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that demonstrate unfavorable correlations between gun-violence preventing policies and the spread of firearms among prohibited groups of people. These studies might be questionable as their importance for the research on gun diversion is not obvious. However, they can demonstrate relationships between crime rates and firearm sales regulations. This data allowed researchers to reveal the circumstances under which the guns were sold. Nevertheless, Congress forbade the ATF from releasing these data. Therefore, it hindered the development of research on the effectiveness of gun policies. Another factor that worsens this situation is “the small number of changes during the past 40 years to what may be the most significant gun policies for keeping from high-risk individuals” (Webster, 2015, p. 3). Finally, the lack of a qualified assessment of the relationships between new laws and their effect on crime rates is also a prominent issue.
One of the promising gun-violence prevention measures is a program called Cure Violence. Taking into account the fact that firearm-involved crimes can widely spread in cities like a disease, researchers employed infection control techniques to design preventing approaches. They created a model that engaged outreach workers and violence interrupters, who are former gang members, to intervene in conflicts before they intensify (Givens, 2017). Such a model promotes standards of nonviolence and guides young generations towards more secure lifestyles.
Much evidence demonstrated that this program resulted in a substantial reduction in gun violence cases in communities where it was carried out. However, other statistics showed that the program did not have a positive impact on some of these communities. The main reason for the failure is that the effect of Cure Violence mostly depended on the personal abilities to implement this program. Therefore, it is necessary to establish practices that will cultivate an understanding of the main concepts of this model and design evaluation instruments that allow determining the effectiveness of interventions. The loyalty to the model is of particular importance as violating the key principles of the program diminishes its credibility.
Other specialists reviewed deterrence policies as methods for the prevention of gun violence. Such strategies aim at a relatively small number of people and involve “direct warnings of certain consequences from the criminal justice system if the individuals or their associates commit violent crimes or illegally possess firearms” (Webster, 2015, p. 3). The members of a community that have the authority to pass on such warnings are usually well-respected by targeted individuals. Also, there are different services that assist former criminals in leading a new, less violent lifestyle. Therefore, deterrent programs embrace more aspects of a gun-violence issue than conservative law enforcement. Their methods focus on prevention, communication, scientific research of the common patterns, collaborations with different agencies, and the application of legal instruments to achieve a positive effect on dangerous behaviors and attitudes. The data collected to analyze the impact of several deterrent interventions on gun violence demonstrated a significant decrease in crime rates. Moreover, research reported a positive effect on criminal communities that were not directly involved in this program.
In conclusion, there is much evidence proving that firearm involved violence in the United States might be substantially reduced. Various programs were successfully designed and tested. They showed positive statistical changes. However, every case has unique characteristics, and this problem is hard to overcome. There is still much missing information about the effect of violence-protection policies on specific communities. Therefore, it is highly necessary to increase investments in further research in this area.
Barry, C. L., McGinty, E. E., Vernick, J. S., & Webster, D. W. (2013). After Newtown—Public opinion on gun policy and mental illness. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(12), 1077-1081.
Barry, C. L., McGinty, E. E., Vernick, J. S., & Webster, D. W. (2015). Two years after Newtown—Public opinion on gun policy revisited. Preventive Medicine, 79, 55-58.
Frattaroli, S., McGinty, E. E., Barnhorst, A., & Greenberg, S. (2015). Gun violence restraining orders: Alternative or adjunct to mental health‐based restrictions on firearms? Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 33(2-3), 290-307.
Givens, A. (2017). On patrol with Chicago’s last violence interrupters. Web.
Malina, D., Morrissey, S., Campion, E. W., Hamel, M. B., & Drazen, J. M. (2016). Rooting out gun violence. The New England Journal of Medicine, 374, 175-176
Webster, D. W. (2015). Commentary: Evidence to guide gun violence prevention in America. Annual Review of Public Health, 36, 1-4.