Don't Mention It: Gun Violence

Friday, October 05, 2012

Aurora crime scene

Earlier this week, just hours before the first presidential debate in Denver, Aurora shooting victim Stephen Barton spoke out in a new ad put out by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, asking the voters to pay close attention to how both candidates addressed gun violence.

"This past summer in a movie theater in Colorado, I was shot — shot in the face and neck — but I was lucky," he says. "In the next four years, 48,000 Americans won't be so lucky, because they'll be murdered with guns in the next president's term. Enough to fill over 200 theaters. So when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself, 'who has a plan to stop gun violence?'"

If you listened to the debate, you know the answer to his question. Neither candidate addressed gun violence, despite the fact that the debate was held in Denver, not far from the sites of two the country’s worst mass shootings: the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and this summer’s mass-shooting at a movie theater in Aurora. 

Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, has studied gun violence as a health issue, and is frustrated that research into how to prevent gun violence has slowed to a standstill. He takes a closer look at the issue as part of our "Don't Mention It" series on neglected campaign issues.

"We're being held hostage to firearm violence," Rosenberg says, citing the NRA as the cause. "All of the science that could possibly give us answers is being stopped." While a tremendous amount of research has been done to stop other leading causes of death, like cancer, or traffic deaths, Rosenberg says that the NRA has successfully put a stop to any work that might have been done to decrease firearm injuries and deaths. 

Rosenberg has done a lot of work on traffic deaths — "injuries that used to be considered accidents" — which he says are indeed preventable. Rosenberg thinks the same science could be applied to stop gun violence in America. 

"We started looking at gun violence as a public health problem at the CDC in the late 80s and early 90s." Rosenberg says. "The standard line from the NRA is that you should have a gun in your house to protect you." The results of their study speak for themselves: not only does owning a gun not protect you, but it increases the risk of homicide for people in the home three times, and increases the risk of suicide five times.

"I think that science is going to show that there are ways to restrict firearm injuries and deaths, and it means putting out some reasonable laws and reasonable policy in this arena." Rosenberg asserts that, out of fear of the findings, "[the NRA] just stopped the whole scientific endeavor."  


Mark Rosenberg

Produced by:

Maggie Penman and Mythili Rao

Comments [6]

Aaron from Boston

Dear Staff of the The Takeaway,

While I always encourage discussion of the issues, the way you treated this topic was short sighted and irresponsible. When you bring on a purported expert who has an openly admitted agenda, and do not have someone to challenge his assertions, nor do you bring sufficient skepticism to his claims, he is able to run roughshod over the facts. In lieu of an opposing expert, may I suggest some factual information (which is well referenced so that you might verify its claims from the source data)? Please take a look at

I would particularly like to draw your attention to what appear on page 29-30 of my copy, under the heading of "The Availability of Guns", regarding the myth that you are much more likely to kill a family member than a criminal if you have a gun in the home. This assertion is based on the Kellerman study from 1986, which has long since been discredited for such problems as cherry picking data, and using an intentionally non-random population selection method to arrive at their desired conclusion (see the citations for further details). Despite having been essential junked as a valid study years ago, many gun control advocates continue to quote this statistic knowing that no one will call them on it. Do not simply swallow their propaganda, make an effort to seek out the facts of the matter.

This doesn't even begin to touch on the issue mentioned above by Otto from Miami, that the use of the term "gun deaths" is both deceptive and irrational. When there are so many other proven methods of killing oneself or other, focusing on a single particular tool is missing the point. This is only reinforced by countries and cities where they have banned guns and seen no reduction in crime, so now they are trying to enact knife control laws, and even dirt-bike control in a desperate effort to do something.

If we really want to reduce accidental deaths (and the term accidental is used far too loosely by most gun control advocates), the solution is not tighter restrictions, but better education. Just like we teach our children how to safely cross the street, and not to take candy from strangers, we should be teaching them at a minimum how to safely and responsibly behave around firearms. This is the one thing that could actually prevent truly accidental firearms deaths.

Thank you.

Oct. 07 2012 10:18 AM

I wonder if their "study" included citizens killed by tyrannical governements. How many Jews were killed in Nazi Germany who had handguns or assault weapons? How did those Jews fare versus those who had their guns removed by the Weimar Government? How many armed Armenians, Cambodians, and Rwandans were killed versus their unarmed counterparts? The second amendment exists to protect us from tyranny, not robbers.

Oct. 05 2012 03:40 PM
Otto from Miami

The label "gun violence" makes people think removing the "gun" from society will effectively remove the violence. That is wrong. Rather than attempting to impose greater restrictions on gun ownership only affecting those individuals who follow the law, government should focus on the root of the violence itself.

“Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and some Domestic Evidence,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Spring 2007, Vol. 30, No 2, pp 650-694.

Oct. 05 2012 02:17 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

One last thing...Imagine a Connect the Dots of "Don't Mention It" segments. What would the picture look like after you connected those dots? What would be revealed
Scary thought

Oct. 05 2012 01:44 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

There will be no gun control in this country. If my "one percent" Mayor Bloomberg can't get it done, it can't be done. I guess he is only "One percent" of "The One Percent" who wants Gun Control.

Your segment called "Don't Mention It," is a daily reminder on how many things in this country can't get done and won't even be examined. Thank You

Oct. 05 2012 11:13 AM

President Obama's home neighborhood, the south side of Chicago, could well be regarded as the youth gun-homicide capitol of North America. And yet Chicago has for decades enacted some of the toughest gun laws in American history.

There is a problem -- a big problem -- in the Obamas' neighborhood, and it is something that gun laws haven't addressed. There is must be one or more reasons, why the young people in President Obama's have been committing record numbers; when youths in other parts of Illinois, and poor youths in other parts of the nation with much more lax gun laws, are not killing each other with such remarkable regularity.

The President might be able to address it; a Sister Souljah moment on gun violence. But the President has failed to do so.

Oct. 05 2012 10:36 AM

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