Hemenway continues to be a leading voice on gun violence

by Shaun Manning on April 3, 2013

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David Hemenway, author of the 2007 book Private Guns, Public Health, [editor’s note: now in a new edition]will speak next week at a symposium held by Massachusetts State Senator Katherine Clark discussing gun violence. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, Dr. Hemenway’s book has been regularly cited for its statistical data on the effects of guns in a community and the author himself has been sought for his views on responsible policy.

Following the announcement that legislation before the Senate would not include an assault weapons ban, Dr. Hemenway participated in a roundtable discussion on Al Jazeera English, where fellow panelist Adam Winkler of the University of California felt that such a ban would prove ineffective. Hemenway said that “what’s really important” in the legislation is expanded background checks, “but I’d like to see a broader approach, a public health approach.” He added that he’d like to see more responsibility placed on manufacturers, who could create “smart guns” that would be more difficult for criminals to use and weapons that would not fire when dropped. “And we’d also want ballistic fingerprinting, as they have in California, which would make it easier for police to catch the criminals.”

In addition, Hemenway said, retailers could do more to reduce “straw purchasing,” the practice of legally buying guns that will then be sold illegally. “Some retailers do an excellent job, others don’t do so well—there should be a universal standard.”

“There tends to be too much focus on the final user,” Hemenway continued. “What we’ve learned in public health is that prevention works best when you go upstream.”

Private Guns, Public Health was also the subject of David Frum’s latest book club on the Daily Beast. While Frum praises many of the ideas Hemenway recounted in his Al Jazeera appearance, the columnist is especially taken with another of Hemenway’s arguments. “[F]or me, the most important conclusion from the book is the need to reauthorize CDC research into guns,” Frum wrote. “What exactly are the risks (and, yes, potential benefits) of gun ownership under present circumstances? It’s depressing that this supremely important policy issue should go so unstudied—and it’s profoundly revealing that one side of the argument uses the suppression of information to advance its case.

For more information on the Massachusetts event, visit this local site. You can watch the engaging back and forth on Al Jazeera and read David Frum’s thoughts on the Daily Beast. And of course read Private Guns, Public Health for Dr. Hemenway’s extensive research.

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