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Reducing Gun Violence in America

, 320 pages
January 2013



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Reducing Gun Violence in America

Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine



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The staggering toll of gun violence—which claims 31,000 U.S. lives each year—is an urgent public health issue that demands an effective evidence-based policy response.

The Johns Hopkins University convened more than 20 of the world’s leading experts on gun violence and policy to summarize relevant research and recommend policies that are both constitutional and have broad public support. Collected for the first time in one volume, this reliable, empirical research and legal analysis will help lawmakers, opinion leaders, and concerned citizens identify policy changes to address mass shootings, along with the less-publicized gun violence that takes an average of 80 lives every day.

Selected recommendations include:

• Background checks: Establish a universal background check system for all persons purchasing a firearm from any seller. • High-risk individuals: Expand the set of conditions that disqualify an individual from legally purchasing a firearm. • Mental health: Focus federal restrictions on gun purchases by persons with serious mental illness on the dangerousness of the individual.• Trafficking and dealer licensing: Appoint a permanent director to ATF and provide the agency with the authority to develop a range of sanctions for gun dealers who violate gun sales or other laws. • Personalized guns: Provide financial incentives to states to mandate childproof or personalized guns. • Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines: Ban the future sale of assault weapons and the future sale and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.• Research funds: Provide adequate federal funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Justice for research into the causes and solutions of gun violence.

The book includes an analysis of the constitutionality of many recommended policies and data from a national public opinion poll that reflects support among the majority of Americans—including gun owners—for stronger gun policies.

Amid a growing consensus that the staggering toll of gun violence in the United States is an urgent public health issue, the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health has convened experts on gun policy and violence from the United States and selected other countries to summarize relevant research and its implications for policymakers and concerned citizens. Legal scholars weigh in on the constitutionality of recommended policies, and researchers present new data on public support for a wide array of policies designed to reduce gun violence. Collected for the first time in one volume, this reliable, empirical research and legal analysis will inform the policy debate by helping lawmakers and opinion leaders identify the policy changes that are most likely to reduce gun violence in the United States.Researchers draw on new and existing studies on U.S. gun policies to demonstrate both the weaknesses of current federal gun policies and the efficacy of various state laws designed to reduce firearm availability to high-risk groups. By analyzing scientific and legal data, the contributors provide evidence in support of enhanced regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers, background checks for private sales, and purchaser licensing. Lessons from bans of assault weapons and of large-capacity magazines for guns are considered, as is the promise of "smart guns," which could be fired only by authorized users. Compelling case studies from Australia, Scotland, and Brazil demonstrate effective policy responses to gun violence that have led to significant reductions in gun-related deaths. The book concludes with data on public support for strengthening gun laws and Second Amendment considerations.

Daniel W. Webster, ScD, MPH, is a professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he serves as Director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research, Deputy Director of Research for the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence, and Director of the PhD program in Health and Public Policy. He has published numerous articles on the prevention of gun violence, firearm policy, youth gun acquisition and carrying, intimate partner violence, and the prevention of youth violence. Jon S. Vernick, JD, MPH, is an associate professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. He is committed to translating research findings into policy change, regularly working with legislators, media, courts, and advocates to provide information about effective policies.

"A masterful, timely, data-driven edited volume on gun control policy options in the U.S. The contributors use a public health lens to examine gun violence and explore issues ranging from mental health concerns to suicide.... The strength of this book is the mixed-method approach in compiling information on many policy options related to gun control, which utilizes case studies and quantitative evidence to make the case for policy change.... The contributors are optimistic and lay out concrete policy options in ways that are both sophisticated and easily accessible to all."

"An anthology of studies, condensing and summarizing the actual state of our knowledge about the subject of gun violence in this country—what real, tested social science shows."

"Surprisingly accessible and startlingly grim. Thankfully, the editors have done an excellent job organizing the material, which moves from current policy shortcomings to proposals for federal reforms. The debate that's raging might leave you feeling hopeless, which this book suggests otherwise."

"This is a 'must' for any concerned about gun control."

"The rate of firearms homicides in America is 20 times higher than it is in other economically advanced nations. We have got to change that."

"Gun violence is a public health issue. It's about the health of our children, our schools, our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and towns. Perhaps there is no way to completely prevent the next tragedy, but that cannot be an excuse that keeps us from doing commonsense things such as preventing violent crime, locking up bad guys, and keeping assault weapons from falling into the hands of disturbed people who are a danger to others. This isn't about ideology. It's about dignity."

"We’ve all heard the saying that when arguing we should ‘disagree without being disagreeable’ but, when it comes to guns, we often find ourselves disagreeing without actually disagreeing. Most Americans believe in some kinds of gun control. Most Americans recognize the ‘right to bear arms’. Most agree that expanded background checks can be useful in keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous or irresponsible people. Considering that there is so much agreement on basic policy, what the gun debate desperately needs is sober clear-headed analysis. Reducing Gun Violence in America edited by Daniel Webster contributes greatly to this need."

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