In this op-ed, writer and activist Adam Eli Werner explains why an organization he's proudly a part of, Gays Against Guns, believes that gun violence is like a sickness or disease.
The most common way to catch a cold is by coming into contact with a person who already has one. The same exact thing is true of gun violence. The greatest predictor of this kind of violence is a preceding violent act, and the more often someone is exposed to gun violence, the more likely they are to be victim or perpetuator of gun violence. That is literally the definition of contagion: when something produces more of itself.
I am a social media manager at Gays Against Guns, where we believe gun violence is a public health issue that can be cured if it is treated as an epidemic, a sickness, or a disease. The American Public Health Association agrees: Gun violence behaves in the exact same way as most other sicknesses or diseases. It's a public health issue.
The first step in beating a disease is to learn about it. No vaccination or cure has ever been discovered without the proper research. Studying gun violence should be a top priority for the United States government, as 33,000 people die each year as a result of gun violence, which cost the country over $229 billion in health care, emergency relief, and work loss in 2015. However, the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun-rights lobbying group, has made research effectively impossible.
In the 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) helped publish studies that showed how having a gun in the home greatly increases the chance of injury or homicide. The NRA was unhappy and lobbied Congress until it voted in 1996 to forbid the CDC to spend funds “to advocate or promote gun control.”
The massacre in Las Vegas on October 1 could have been prevented. The police found 23 guns in the shooter's hotel room and another 19 in his home. In Nevada there is no limit on how many guns one can own or buy at one time; had limits been in place, perhaps the shooter would not have been able to amass a personal arsenal.