Viviana Goldenberg is a certified family physician practising in the United States
*disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this blog are those of Dr Goldenberg and do not represent those of the company at which she is employed
In the aftermath of the recent Charleston mass shooting, Americans find themselves looking for an explanation. This time the conversation has focused on the Confederate flag. After the Aurora and Newtown massacres, the finger pointed at “mental illness.” We choose to give a simple answer to a complex problem and move on without acknowledging the simple truth — that a racist driven by hatred or a mentally disturbed person could not have committed mass murder without a gun. It is, however, inaccurate to pass off the gun violence epidemic as nothing more than a “mental health issue.” In fact, a psychiatric diagnosis is not predictive of violence and the overwhelming majority of people with diagnosed psychiatric conditions do not commit crimes. Mass shootings, in turn, contribute but a small fraction of the 33,600 deaths attributed to guns annually in the USA. Alarmingly, those numbers increase every year. Roughly 20,000 cases are suicides but the rest are homicides, intentional shootings, unintentional shootings, and law enforcement interventions.
Despite denial in some circles, gun violence is a Public Health issue. The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, and along with it the highest per capita rate of firearm-related murders of all developed countries. The consequences of gun violence are both physical and psychological. They take a toll on communities, families, and cost the health system over 170 billion dollars a year.
Because of the gun lobby’s power over legislatures, physicians in some states are not permitted to address the presence of guns in the home. ...continue reading