As the outlook for sensible gun safety legislation isn't positive right now, we are fortunate that the Biden-Harris administration has created a significant six-part program to reduce gun violence. Parts of it mesh well with information I came across in 2019 about evidence-based programs that were working, but lost their funding. Both the relevant aspects of the new administration plan and my earlier blog appear here.
There’s broad agreement, as noted in Part 1 of this post, that gun violence (indeed, all violence) should be viewed as a public health issue.
That idea was clearly stated by Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist trained in infectious diseases, when he returned to the US after a decade spent in Somalia, Uganda, and other countries where epidemics of such diseases as cholera, tuberculosis, and AIDs were common. In his final assignment before coming home, he was tasked to design interventions.
As he describes in a TEDMED talk, he was looking for something to do when he began hearing stories of children shooting other children. When he asked friends how America was addressing this issue, one response was through punishment. But, he said, “We who had worked in behavior know that punishment was something…that was highly overvalued” because it wasn’t a main driver of either behavior or behavior change. What’s more, it reminded him of responses to epidemics long ago—before science cast better light on issues.