We are in a public health crisis, and it is not COVID-19

There is a virus plaguing our country that has claimed the lives of more Americans in the past 50 years than all our wars together. He killed twice as many Americans as COVID-19[female[feminine, yet it has been systematically ignored by influential lawmakers. This virus has nothing to do with our immune system; it is our culture of toxic weapons.

About one in three American adults owns a gun (a statistic which is much higher than those of comparable nations). Surprisingly, these Americans have 40% of the total firearms owned by civilians in the world, which translates to more guns than people in the United States.

Why so many guns? Almost two-thirds of owners say it’s for protection. Yet although we own many more guns than comparable countries, our crime rates are about the same, and the instances where guns are actually used for protection. are rare. For those who claim that guns are a deterrent to crime, studies show that crime rates increase – not decrease – with greater access to guns.

The virus is not a crime-ravaged society that needs weapons for security reasons; is that too many Americans believe in the illusion of one.

If our mistaken belief that more guns make us safer is the virus, then gun violence is the resulting disease. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, Americans are 25 times more likely die of homicide by firearm than our counterparts in other developed countries; 60% of these deaths are suicides. More than 100 Americans are killed by a gun every day, with at least 200 others injured by gunshot wounds. From 2015 to 2019, we have on average nearly 40,000 gun deaths annually.

Tackling gun violence means recognizing that guns are a problem to begin with – a problem that manifests itself in different ways. For young black men in poor urban neighborhoods, this could be the daily threat of homicide when they leave their homes. For whites in rural communities, this could be the increased likelihood of suicide with depression. For women around the world, it is the lingering fear of injury or death when their abusive partner possesses a deadly weapon.

The reality is that guns are the means of violence, not prevention. They are the disease, not the cure.

“The reality is that guns are the means of violence, not prevention. They are the disease, not the cure.

Olivier hicks

As we move beyond what has been a life-changing, multi-year pandemic, it is worth remembering the sobering lessons of our ongoing battle against the coronavirus: threats to public health cannot be denied – they cannot be denied. do not resolve on their own.

The cure for this disease defies misinformation and rectifies our national conversation. The responsibility to do so is shared by all levels of government, the media, law-abiding gun owners and citizens around the world. We cannot allow gun advocates to conjure up the image of patriots armed with muskets or cowboys armed with guns to rationalize the presence of guns in our society. Instead, we need to be guided by data that demonstrates the inherent risk of guns and a genuine concern for the safety of our neighbors.

I am a student at Swarthmore College. Recently, I have worked with other students and teachers in collaboration with local groups to launch the first interactive homicide database. The database documents the 503 homicides that occurred at Delco from 2005 to 2019 with data disaggregated by year, age, race, weapon type and other categories. A heat map even shows where these incidents are concentrated.

Philadelphia has a similar database, but nationally, we lack adequate reporting on gun violence. We need more active efforts like this across the country, in counties large and small, to both understand and curb gun violence. This is the only way to create a healthier ecosystem in which guns can still exist.

READ MORE: For some black men and teens in Philly, relying on guns has become commonplace

Universal background checks, red flag laws, and gun licensing are all solutions most Americans already support. Of course, there are other issues as well. The dismantling of the National Rifle Association’s massive gun lobby and support for increased funding for gun violence research and reporting are prime examples.

This virus is deadly, but we have remedies. A public health approach to firearms can change mindsets, laws and culture. It’s time to be healthy. It’s time to beat this virus.

Oliver Hicks is a senior at Swarthmore College studying Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies.

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