In recent years, the problem of firearm death and injury has attracted international attention, but approaches to the issue have tended to be fragmented. Scholars interested in disarmament and conflict prevention have tended to focus on the flow of weapons to war zones, while those interested in crime have tended to concentrate on high-income countries, often the United States. The public health perspective has been brought to bear on the issue of firearms as part of national studies and is often referred to in larger studies of violence but is less often as a single focus point. In addition, many writers have focused on a particular aspect of the issue, for example, the supply or the demand for firearms or regulation. In this book we provide a comprehensive overview of all these aspects.
The public health perspective begins with an analysis of a problem in order to identify the causal links that lead to an illness or injury. Based on an analysis of those causal links, interventions are developed, aimed at breaking the chain at its weakest point. The interventions are implemented and continuously evaluated in order to refine and improve them. The public health perspective helps separate fact from fiction and focuses on the evidence: What is the nature of the problem of gun violence? What factors contribute to gun violence? What interventions can break the cycle, and do they work? Regardless of the context—crime, conflict, domestic assault, suicide—firearms increase the number of victims and the potential for children to become killers. Firearms also undermine long-term efforts to build civil society by fueling internal arms races, whether in war zones or in inner cities. While social science is not hard science and analyses of causes and effects are not simple or unambiguous, our interpretation is based on integrating a wide range of sources and perspectives. The data provided in the book are a snapshot. Current data will be available at www.ryerson.ca/SAFER-Net.
Understanding violence and systematically developing strategies to deal