I like it when public health research on gun violence gets in the way of Gun Nation’s continued effort to pretend that the only thing which stands between America and Armageddon is a good guy with a gun. So I think it’s important now and again to highlight some recent gun violence scholarship, even though by including a handful of important articles I am forced to omit others that are of equal importance to the field. Feel free to download any of the articles mentioned here.
Article #1. “Lethal means access and assessment among suicidal emergency department patients” is a study of more than 1,300 emergency patients across the country who either reported suicide thoughts or actually attempted suicide in the week prior to their ED visit, of whom 11% reported having at least one, if not more than one gun in their home. Of the gun-owning suicidal patients, 22% considered using a gun as their chosen suicidal method, with only medication scoring higher among this group as the preferred way to bring their lives to an end. Among the emergency population that did not own guns, only 6% reported thoughts about using a gun to end their lives. Pills have a 5% success rate for suicide, with guns the death rate is 90%. Get it?
Article #2. “Firearm-related hospitalization and risk for subsequent violent injury, death, or crime perpetration” is a comparison of the frequency of hospitalization for victims of gun violence when compared with the population that is hospitalized for an injury not involving guns. The study looked at patient outcomes for more than 9,000 violent injuries and 68,000 non-violent injuries, of whom 680 were classified as FRH or firearm-related hospitalizations. And what was learned from this study, which was the first to look comprehensively at medical histories of patients shot with guns? “Hospitalization for a firearm-related injury is associated with a heightened risk for subsequent violent victimization
or crime perpetration.” Gee, what a surprise.
Article #3. “Long-term mortality of patients surviving firearm violence” deals with the degree to which being injured by a gun increases the possibility of early death. What makes this study significant is that the researchers compared five-year outcomes following hospital discharge of 516 patients who sustained gun wounds, 992 vehicle accident injuries and 695 assaults where no gun was involved. What they found was that five-year, post-discharge mortality rates were significantly higher among gun assault victims and other assault victims as opposed to patients who were injured in accidents involving cars. But while the 5-year mortality rates for gun and non-gun assaults were similar, a greater proportion of the victims of gun assaults died within one year of their initial hospital release. Most of these early gun-injury deaths were – you guessed it – gun homicides. In other words, if someone leaves the hospital after getting shot, they have some unfinished business which usually ends up with them getting shot again.
Article #4. “Social networks and the risk of gunshot injury” goes beyond the usual epidemiological data that drives public health research and looks at group behaviors which influence gun violence on a community-wide scale. For this article the researchers studied two inner-city Boston neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime and utilized data from the Boston PD Field Intelligence Observation unit to construct the social networks linking the population which was most likely to be criminally involved with guns. What they found was that using standard demographic categories (income, race) to define a population as high-risk for gun violence was not as important as understanding how individuals were situated in social networks where gun violence frequently occurred.
Four studies, each of which fills important gaps in our knowledge about violence caused by guns. Four studies, which if it were up to Gun Nation would never be funded, would never see the light of day. Four studies, which whether we are talking about suicide, homicide, assault or combinations of all three, remind us again that you don’t protect anyone from anything by walking around with a gun.