Although politicians still regularly blame gun violence on mental illness, that theory is largely rejected by public health authorities, and a new study breaks down the ‘social determinants of health’ that raise or reduce risks for homicides.
Just as diseases vary from one population to the next, gun violence is more common in some areas and groups than in others, meaning the factors that shape our lives also shape the risks of a shooting.
Researchers at Northeastern University found that wealth gaps, distrust of institutions, poverty and how much a government spends on the good of a neighborhood are all linked to its gun violence rates.
Working out if these associations are in fact causes for gun violence could help to stem the gun violence ‘epidemic’ and its diminishing effect on the average American lifespan.
Homicides involving guns are the second leading cause of death for young people in the US. A new breakdown reveals that poverty increases the odds of fatal shootings by up to 27%
Already in 2019, there have been more mass shootings than days in the year.
And, in fact, mass shootings account for only a small fraction of the number of deaths caused by gun violence in the US each year.
Public health officials and enforcement authorities alike have combat the more than 33,000 annual deaths from gun violence in the US.
For one, a 1996 law effectively put a moratorium on federal funding for research into gun violence – although that freeze is expected to be lifted after 20 years, if the 2020 spending bill is passed in its current form.
Instead, American lawmakers have implemented legislative attempts to address gun violence, but some exerts feel that, after the necessary compromises to get these bills passed are made, they’re rendered toothless.
Last year, the American College of Physicians – among the leading organizations of US doctors, nurses and health workers – penned their stance on gun violence, urging gun control.
In response, the National Rifle Association (NRA) tweeted that members of the medical community should ‘stay in the their lane.’
But it’s ER trauma surgeons who treat and attempt to save the lives of gun shot victims and public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who track the deaths caused by firearms.
Homicide, incidentally, is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 and the number one cause of death for black men in that age bracket. Three quarters of those deaths involve guns.
While there may not be a biological form to gun violence, it does have a social morphology.
To paint a clearer picture of the social risk factors that influence gun deaths, the Northeastern University team analyzed data on gun homicides from 2015 in neighborhoods across the US, including 13,060 deaths.
They found that in counties where there was general trust in society and institutions, gun homicides were 19 percent less common.
If people had social mobility – meaning that both individuals and generations could, over time, progress in terms of social and economic status – 25 percent fewer people were killed by guns.
On the other hand, in neighborhoods with a high density of men living alone, gun deaths were 12 percent more common.
And most telling of all, rates of firearm-involved homicides were 26 to 27 percent higher in neighborhoods with high proportions of people living in poverty, they found.
‘Using a social determinants of health lens, the findings from my study suggest that gun homicides have root social causes including our levels of trust in institutions and our ability to climb the economic ladder,’ lead study author Dr Daniel Kim told DailyMail.com via email.
‘These root causes can be modified through policies.
‘In America, gun control laws have been difficulty to change for political reasons and this social determinants of health approach could offer additional strategies to policymakers.’