The US is in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis.
Around 282 people every day – more than 32,000 people every year – are dying from a totally preventable cause.
This totally preventable cause, by the way, just isn’t a problem in most other developed nations.
They’ve either eliminated it altogether or responded to previous outbreaks in such a way as to make future ones rarer and much less deadly than the ones we have here.
I’m talking, of course, about gun violence.
Yes, that’s right, gun violence.
It’s not something that most people think about when they think about the biggest public health crises in the US – they usually think of cancer, heart disease or drug addiction – but that’s exactly what gun violence is: a public health crisis.
It’s a public health crisis because it’s an ongoing and substantial threat to the safety of the citizens of this country.
No one, I repeat no one, is safe, at least not with the NRA out there spending millions of dollars every election cycle to make sure weapons of war stay on our streets.
And that raises a really important point: We know what the problem is when it comes to gun violence.
The problem is that it there are too many guns in too many hands.
So the logical thing to do would be something like what we did when Ralph Nader revealed that shoddy automobile manufacturing was causing deadly car crashes or when scientists revealed that cigarettes were causing cancer: get real scientific information on the problem and then pass laws, informed by that science, that eliminate the problem at its root cause.
When it comes to gun violence, this would mean passing laws that make it much harder to buy and sell guns of any kind, especially assault rifles and other weapons of war that have no business being in the hands of private civilians.
This isn’t really up for debate.
The NRA can pump out whatever “good guys with guns” propaganda it wants, but the fact of the matter is that Americas are safer with fewer, not more guns, on the streets.
The latest proof of this comes out of Missouri, which in 2007 repealed some of its most important gun control laws, including universal background checks.
According to a new study from Johns Hopkins University, this caused a 16 percent jump in the Show Me State’s gun homicide rate.
Missouri was always a violent place – its gun homicide rate was actually 13.8 percent higher than the national average before the 2007 repeal – but doing away with common sense things like background checks made things much, much worse.
Between 2008 and 2014, the first eight years after repeal of their control laws, Missouri’s gun homicide rate was 47 percent – yes, 47 percent – higher than the national average.
It’s a pretty straightforward equation: More freely available guns equals more gun deaths – and fewer freely available guns equals fewer guns deaths.
End of story.
Which raises the question: If gun violence caused by easy access to guns is such an obvious public health problem with such an obvious solution, why doesn’t our government treat it like one?
The answer to that question has a one-word answer – Republicans.
Believe it or not, it’s actually illegal for the Centers of Disease Control to conduct any research whatsoever into the impact of gun control on public health.
That’s right – illegal!
This is all thanks to former Arizona Republican Congressman Jay Dickey, who in 1996 pushed for and helped pass an NRA-backed law that bans government research into the relationship between gun ownership and public health.
This law is now called the Dickey Amendment after its creator, and, outside of NRA money, it’s one of the biggest roadblocks in the way of our having a sensible gun control policy in this country.
Even Jay Dickey thinks so, which is why he now opposes the law he once helped create.
The government – the institution we trust with our safety – shouldn’t be prevented from researching a major public health problem just because that research could make a profitable business look bad.
We wouldn’t give the auto industry or the tobacco industry that kind of exemption, and we shouldn’t give it to the gun industry either.
It’s time to repeal the Dickey Amendment and starting treating gun violence like what it is: one of the biggest public health crises in the US.