Assault weapon ban: a healthy ounce
A perspective from IDPH Director LaMar
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[January 21, 2013]
SPRINGFIELD -- Health statistics show that
homicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people age
15-24. For this age group, homicides account for more deaths than
cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, birth defects, influenza
and pneumonia combined. This is alarming enough; however, homicide
is also the third-leading cause of death for children age 1-4 and
the fourth-leading cause of death for 5-14-year-olds.
The vast majority of these deaths are caused by firearms. There were
882 homicides in Illinois in 2009 -- 71 percent were caused by guns.
And, because most victims of homicide are young, homicide is among
the leading contributors to years-of-life loss and a major reason
for the shortened lifespan among blacks, who on average live five
years less than whites.
Given these statistics, there is no
question that fatal gun violence is a legitimate public health
concern -- as significant as exposure to secondhand smoke, a severe
influenza outbreak or a contaminated water supply.
In the wake of mass shooting tragedies in Newtown (Conn.), Aurora
(Colo.), Oak Creek (Wis.) and Tucson (Ariz.), Gov. Quinn's proposal
to ban specific assault weapons will make Illinoisans safer. The
legislation upholds Second Amendment rights and grants exceptions,
while banning semi-automatic assault weapons, attachments and
high-capacity ammunition magazines associated with many of the
recent mass shootings.
No single intervention will stop every violent act. Violent
behavior is complex, involves multiple factors and generally
requires a comprehensive approach to address. However, given the
potential for these types of weapons to kill and injure high numbers
of people in extremely short periods of time, restricting access is
a common-sense, if not empirically proven strategy.
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As a former lead scientist for the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention's Division of Violence Prevention, co-author of the
Surgeon General's Report on Youth Violence (2001), and co-author of
the first national school-associated violent death study -- in
response to the Columbine shooting in Colorado -- I know that fatal
gun violence is preventable.
Other states have passed similar legislation banning assault
weapons. New York recently became the first state in the nation to
significantly toughen its assault weapons ban in the aftermath of
the Newtown shootings.
Illinois children and communities are just as valuable as those
in states where legislation banning assault weapons has successfully
passed, and similar legislation should be passed in Illinois
immediately as a prudent, preventive measure.
Gov. Quinn and I both stand with President Obama in supporting
stronger gun control as the first step of a comprehensive public
safety plan, and as a public health imperative.
As the father of three school-aged children, I believe we must
all commit to finding individual, family, community and
environmental-level approaches to curtail gun violence in Illinois.
HASBROUCK, M.D., M.P.H.,
Department of Public Health
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