Initiative targeting gun violence launched

Washington University is investigating the public health impact of gun violence in America.

A yearlong initiative entitled “Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis” will target public health and safety concerns in relation to gun violence in the U.S. The initiative was launched by Mark Wrighton, Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, at a panel held April 21.

During the panel, Wrighton said this initiative is intended to fill existing research gaps mentioned in a 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine. Wrighton said this will hopefully aid the public and policy makers in future decisions regarding public safety.

Over the next five years, Wrighton said researchers hope to target five priority areas: characteristics of gun violence, risk and protective factors, prevention and other intervention, the influence of video games and other media and gun safety technology.

MU freshman Christopher Dade said he thinks firearms pose a threat to public safety, and that the need for firearms has shifted from protection from government militant force to personal protection and sports.

“No amendment in the constitution is more important than any other,” Dade said. “So the question we need to be asking, in concerns of public safety, is when is someone’s right to own a weapon more important than the right of someone to walk down the street and not have to fear they are walking next to an assault weapon that someone in the military should be trained to use, not a citizen?”

While the Second Amendment give U.S. citizens the right to keep and bear arms, each state has their own set of guidelines regarding firearms permits.

According to Article 1, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution, there is no waiting period or permit required to purchase firearms. The buyer must be at least 18 years old, a Missouri resident for at least six months and in good mental health without previous violent charges.

This past September, the Missouri House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 656, which dropped the minimum age for a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19.

In Columbia, the Code of Ordinances Section 16-234 declares that firearms are permitted for use in gun clubs, ranges, skeet shooting, hunting and with a permit for special shooting events.

Concealed firearms are illegal on college campuses in Missouri, MU Police Department Capt. Scott Richardson said. Richardson said students should abide by current Missouri laws and use common sense when dealing with firearms.

Richardson said individuals should keep firearms under lock when not in use and out of unattended cars to avoid gun theft while on campus. MUPD will take custody of any firearms or hunting weapons for students who need a safe place to store them during school hours, he said.

A national call to action set out by the American Bar Association on Feb. 24 brought about this push for new research. According to a Feb. 6 ABA report, firearms killed 33,636 Americans in 2013, which is an average of over 92 deaths per day. It also states that in 2013 people under the age of 25 accounted for 36 percent of firearm-related deaths and injuries.

According to an ABA video played at the panel discussion, the report also predicted that this year, gun-related deaths will outnumber deaths caused by car accidents for the first time in national history.

“Our goal, by engaging in the conversation, is to help develop real solutions that have a real chance of making a real difference,” Wrighton said during the panels.

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