|Weapons, a social disease
2012.08.30 - 11:18:31 / email@example.com / Translated by: Pedro A. Fanego Sea
Havana, Cuba. - After the recent shootings in United States, health care experts think a different approach to firearms violence is needed. They claim the issue should be studied as a social disease.
They have stated that dealing with these events requires a public health care approach. What the specialists propose is a pragmatic outlook, with scientific bases, towards the reality of a society where weapons proliferate.
Dr. Stephen Hartgarten, who assisted several victims of shootings in the emergency department he runs in Milwaukee, pointed out, "The question that troubles me is: Is it a new social norm? Is this what we will have to live with if we have more personal access to firearms?”
“We have a public health situation to deal with", he said. "Will we wait until the next outbreak or is there something we can do to prevent it?"
Nowadays, 260 to 300 million firearms are in civilian hands in the United States. There is one in nearly one third of all homes. According to the latest statistics, firearms have been used in two thirds of the homicides. Firearms are used in almost 9% of the violent crimes, about 338 000 cases every year.
More than 73 000 patients were assisted in emergency rooms in 2010 with firearms injuries, according to estimates of US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the physicians, a gun does not differ much from a virus or addiction to alcohol, when it comes to indiscriminate massacres, like those recently perpetrated in United States. In view of events like the shootings in Denver or Wisconsin, some experts concluded that they are spreading like an epidemic.
Garen Wintemute, professor of medical emergencies, runs the Research Program on Violence Prevention of California University. He claims that it takes a public health care approach to deal with the problem, like the security measures enforced in the highways decades ago. Those substantially reduced the death toll in traffic accidents.
The latest death toll
The last shooting in United States took the life of at least three people near Texas University. That incident adds to the recent wave of tragic incidents with weapons that have United States on tenterhooks.
Last July 20, James Holmes, 24 years-old former medicine student, entered a cinema in Denver, Colorado, holding a gun. He opened fire against the stalls during the screening of the latest Batman movie. He killed 12 people and wounded 58, including children.
Last August 5, Wade Michael Page, former military, expert in psychological warfare, went to a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The rock music fan, xenophobe and member of a white supremacy group killed six people and wounded three, before he took his life.
Another shootout erupted last August 10 in a nightclub of Wicksburg, 150 kilometers from Montgomery, Alabama. Three people were killed and another one was wounded, before the Police captured the shooter, Ryan Clark Peterson, 22 years-old.
Back to figures
In United States, 34 people die every day by firearms. This year, after the carnages in Dawn, Colorado and a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, surveys were conducted. The outcome showed that American citizens unbelievably had not changed their stance. According to the “Pew Center of Studies”, 46% claim, "it is important to protect the right of citizens to possess weapons."
“It would be advisable to control weapons possession, but never to ban them”, 47% of the citizens say, according to the same source. The studies reveal that the massacres of Arizona (2011) or the Virginia Tech University (2007) did not alter this standpoint either.
In United States, 300 million weapons are in private hands, an average of one per individual. At present, 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles and 83 million shotguns are at large.
The statistics have not changed in the last 50 years. During that time, 45% of the citizens admit having one or more weapons at home, according to polls run by Gallup.
The inquiry turned out that 47% of the Americans regard the current laws on arms possession as "effective" and 11% propose they should be more "lenient."
The vast majority of American society is in favor of strict observance of the Second Amendment in the Constitution that allows for the right of possessing weapons. Its staunchest advocate is the very powerful and ultra-right wing National Rifle Association.
Some organizations, like the Coalition to Stop Firearms Violence, advocate more strict requirements to authorize weapons possession. They are also in favor of renewing the ban on the manufacture and sales of assault weapons to civilians, which was in force from 1994 to 2004.
When this law expired, neither the Congress nor former President George W. Bush did anything to extend it.
A knowledgeable opinion
“The interpretation that Americans have made of their second constitutional amendment on the right to possess weapons affects other nations”, Juan Federico Arriola, expert of the Law Faculty of the Ibero-American University, criticized.
"It is one thing to have weapons to defend one’s property, but making wholesale profits with them is an altogether different matter”, he said in an official statement. He also mentioned that more than 20 people have been killed and more than 50 have been wounded in shootings against civilians this year, only in the United States.
The expert stressed that according to a report issued by the International Institute of Studies for Peace, based in Stockholm, "World trade of conventional weapons increased 24 % from 2007 to 2011, compared to the previous five years term and United States stands out as the foremost exporter." By: Ana Teresa Badia