Bioethics Blogs

Base Gun Policy on Science, Not Rhetoric

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This year, my university required all instructors to talk about “live shooter” plans in our classes. Although this institution does not permit guns anywhere on campus, we are supposed to be prepared because we live in a world where mass shootings occur in schools and where in more places people carry firearms.

This week, President Obama took executive action to address this public health epidemic. During the press conference, the President announced guidance for federal agencies that fell into three categories: asking Congress for more funds, expanding who is covered under the background check requirements, and greater enforcement of existing laws.

Right before his speech, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) offered a more stringent definition of a firearms dealer, thus requiring more sellers to conduct background checks on buyers. This is an attempt to close the so-called “gun show” loop where guns have been bought and sold without requiring background checks. Less defined were President Obama’s other commitments: increased prosecution for violating gun laws, asking Congress for more funding for new ATF agents, asking Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care, and requested federal agencies to research gun safety technology.

According to the CDC in 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics have been made available), there were 33,636 deaths from firearms (33.8% homicides, 63.8% suicides, 1.5% accidents, and 0.9% undetermined reason) and 33,360 injuries from them. Consider the lengths that agencies and hospitals went to in regards to Ebola (not to mention the $5 billion Congress allocated for study and preparation) in the last two years where there were only 10 patients and 2 deaths in the U.S..

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.