How Do We Stem Gun Violence in America?

Copyright alptraum / 123RF Stock PhotoAmerican women are 11 times more likely to be murdered by someone using a gun than women in other democratic countries with developed economies, according to a presenter at convention panel today on gun violence prevention.

That statistic, revealed by Jacquelyn White, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was one of several sobering facts discussed at the session, entitled “Gun Violence Prediction and Prevention – APA Policy Development, Dissemination and Implementation.” Some others: males constitute 90 percent of gun violence perpetrators and 70 percent of homicide victims. And there is a one in 144,000 chance that a person with schizophrenia will kill a stranger, according to Joel A. Dvoskin, PhD, of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

“The myth is you have to be crazy to shoot a bunch of people,” Dvoskin said. “There is no evidence that people with serious mental illness are more likely to commit gun violence” than people without mental illness.

The common traits among people who commit gun violence are anger, depression, despair and social awkwardness, among others Dvoskin said. “In other words, profiles are stupid,” he said. “Profiles are stereotypes that blind us” to people who pose real risks.

The United States needs to take a science-based public health approach to stemming gun violence, treating guns like other dangerous products, said Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD, of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. This approach would take into account product design, safety features and improvements in how people store guns.

Finally, more research is required, said Gary D. Gottfredson, PhD, of the University of Maryland-College Park. “We don’t know an awful lot,” he said. “We lack a national system for uniformly collecting information about firearms violence. … That has to end.”