- Dr Frantz Pierre-Louis & Lloyd Pierre-Louis
Weapons and Health
Updated: May 10, 2020
One can not responsibly talk about health and be silent on the sensitive and often politicized issue of violence and firearms.
The keyword here is "responsibly", because this is exactly how this issue needs to be addressed without the blinding passion of political beliefs whatever these maybe. Gun violence is a real public health issue, and it is not simply a gun issue (motivated by ill-intent) nor is it only an issue of mentally deranged individuals; it is both.
According to David Hemenway, author of the book entitled Private guns, Public Health : ‘’ On an average day in the United States, guns are used to kill over ninety people and wound about three hundred more; yet such facts are accepted as a natural consequence of supposedly high American rates of violence…’’
We can't talk about health on a global perspective while ignoring these numbers and avoid discussing them just because they make us feel uncomfortable; unfortunately, our life, our health, could one day literally depend on it. Of course, when we talk about gun violence, the problem is violence, not guns (just like, as an analogy, when we talk about car accidents, the problem is the erratic-irresponsible behaviors causing them, not the car; but we can't ignore the fact that a car accident is more dangerous than a bike accident; on the same token, violence could be expressed by any human by any means, not solely from the usage of a gun. As a matter of fact, it is wise to say that anything ranging from a useful (and seemingly inoffensive) plastic bag to a baseball bat or knife can be considered a weapon as long as it is used to kill another human, just like any nuclear, biological and chemical weapons for that matter.
Nevertheless, the kind of destruction that some of these weapons can cause is unimaginable and unparalleled in their ability to cause the brutal cessation of life, or even worse, an agonizing death. We must understand that these weapons don't just destroy a few human beings, but they shake humanity as a whole in its core. Hence, it is crucially important to try by any means to minimize the deaths caused by violence. Therefore, if we closely take an analytic look, mental health (in the sense of mental health deficiency) and ill-intent (assuming by hypothesis that the ill-intent is not considered mental illness, and inherently different from mental health deficiency in this context) as 2 particular variables which often result in gun violence, we could thus attempt to propose a mathematical expression of the impacts of weapons on human health with the following equation:
(ill-intent + Mental health) * Weapon = devastation * (Phisical injury + Mental injury)
A rational analysis of this equation reveals that there is less injury or devastation in this context if there is no weapon. However, Mental health is a tricky and often unknown variable, which makes it very difficult to predict, and therefore absolutely necessary to determine, especially in a context where public (health) safety does (and should always) matter.
We must also remind and acknowledge, when discussing gun violence, that the real problem is violence, not guns, but as we can see in the equation above, guns can have a multiplying effect by making it easier for a mentally-ill individual (or an ill-intentioned individual as well) to cause more physical injury (and also mental injury both to these victims and their families), and therefore more devastation. This situation in itself has the potential to likely cause more mental health issues in individuals, which then become more likely themselves to turn to violence; and if guns are easily accessible, this becomes a dangerous, senseless, never-ending and vicious cycle.
That being said, at the core of the weapon debate lies, between these extremes and across all these silver linings, the delicate task of eventually finding the most adequate and safest policies to regulate guns/firearms/weapons usage (or possession) by civilian individuals (other than law enforcement officers). Speaking about the effect of these specific weapons on health, the first thing that naturally comes to mind is the deadly shootings which left many deaths, wounded and injured people. Meanwhile, the aforementioned people who were physically affected by these unimaginable massacres were not the only victims; their loved ones and the whole country to a certain extent were also victims who suffered the mental injury of despair, stress and anger for what happened. So, in light of these facts, isn’t bearing lethal weapons like guns a matter (not only of individual but) of public health?
In conclusion, given the fact that the US Constitution allows the right to bear weapon for self-defense purposes, yes, it is always possible to amend weapon policies for public safety; yes, it is possible to enforce aspects of prevention and raise awareness for the sake of public safety and health. However, the devastating consequences of weapons on health are (and might always be) rampant in the world until we, humans, allow the notions of prevention, understanding, peace and love pull the trigger on the concept of self-defense which is, for both the striker and the victim, only one of many roads leading to the common tomb of endless violence.
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