Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, there have been another 1000 deaths – and counting - due to gun violence, including shootings in private homes, while gun sales markedly increased. New York passed the toughest gun control laws in the nation as the Obama administration considers measures the federal government can take to address the problem. The national conversation seems to revolve around how we understand the right to own firearms but there is much more to the story than simply deciding how to interpret the 2nd Amendment. Much of that story deals with interpersonal realities and actual numbers and facts about the effect of guns within a household. There is an immeasurable human cost - in the psychological toll of gun violence to everyone involved including First Responders, victims, survivors, and communities that has no shelf life and changes lives and families forever – and a calculable financial cost. ”Evidence abounds that the public sector - and thus society in general - bears much of the economic burden of interpersonal violence,” according to a report compiled by the World Health Organization. “Several studies in the USA showed that from 56% to 80% of the costs of care for gun and stabbing injuries are either directly paid by public financing or are not paid at all - in which case they are absorbed by the government and society in the form of uncompensated care financing and overall higher payment rates. In low- and middle-income countries, it is also probable that society absorbs much of the costs of violence through direct public expenditures and negative effects on investment and economic growth.”
The most common myth about gun ownership that seems to spike sales of firearms as much as it does incidences of homicide, suicide and traumatic injury, is that it is a reliable form of protection. Studies of the issue point in the exact opposite direction. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) which has published consistently on gun violence as a public health concern, found that “rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.” In their 2008 article “Guns, Fear, The Constitution and The Public’s Health” the NEJM studied the relationship between gun ownership and the likelihood of being hurt or killed and found that “Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40 to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90 to 460%. Young people who commit suicide with a gun usually use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shelters for victims of domestic violence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.”
The problems of interpersonal violence have real solutions that we can do more to implement - accessible, affordable mental health services, fully operational and staffed domestic violence shelters, and ongoing public education - in a true holistic approach to reducing its costs to our emotional, social and financial health.
Jude Treder-Wolff is a trainer/consultant and writer/performer with 25 years experience as a therapist specializing in creativity and connectivity through relationships. Follow her on Twitter @JuTrWolff.