Yale Study: Just Like the Flu, Gun Violence is Contagious
Researchers from Harvard and Yale universities have published a study showing how gun violence can spread through social media and real-life communities just like an infectious disease.
According to this study, using disease-based theories and simulations, after a shooting gun violence can move from person to person. The authors of the study note that intervention tactics “rest largely on geographic or group-based policing efforts that tend to disproportionately affect disadvantaged minority communities.”
Andrew Papchristos, sociologist at Yale University, dug into shootings in Chicago from 2006 to 2014. He found 138,163 people considered to play a big part on social media, and of those persons of interest, 9,773 were involved in more than 11,000 shootings; both fatal and nonfatal.
While comparing demographics such as gender, age, and location, the researchers noticed that these shootings moved through social circles, mimicking an infectious disease and being the cause of 63% of the over-all shootings.
Surprisingly, gun violence has an “incubation period” of an average of 125 days between a person “experiencing” gun violence and when an “infected” member of the community commits an act of violence using a gun.
The individual “exposed” to gun violence then becomes violent themselves after this 125 day incubation period, suggesting that people “catch” the desire to shoot each other.
Charles Branas, Sara Jacoby, and Elena Andreyeva, epidemiologists with the University of Pennsylvania (and not part of this study) praised the findings : “This important finding helps put to rest the mistaken idea that epidemiology, medicine, and public health somehow have no place in the prevention of firearm violence, a disease process that affects roughly 100,000 people in the United States each year.” However, they noted that we still shouldn’t abandon efforts and interventions to improve neighborhood-wide conditions, which are also known to help curb gun violence.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) found in the past 3 decades that little has changed in the wake of rising gun violence. Nearly 34,000 people died because of gun violence in 2014; half of those deaths being suicides.
The biggest problem with tracking gun violence has been Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA), who has been behind the scenes assisting in legislative blockages created by Congressional members who were also affiliated with the NRA.
In fact, for the last 20 years the NRA has been successful in blocking the US government from conducting research into gun violence thanks to people like former Republican Congressman Jay Dickey who authored the infamous Dickey-Wicker Amendment (DWA) in 1995.
According to this rider, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education were restricted from using appropriated funds to research into firearms ownership and its effect on public health.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was stripped of the $2.6 million they were slated to use to research into gun violence because of language in the DWA that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
In 2009, a study produced by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine (PSM) at the University of Pennsylvania (UP) caught the attention of Republican lawmakers because it showed a correlation between gun possession and assaults with firearms.
The DWA was invoked to prevent epidemiological investigations by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into gun-related deaths.
The application of the DWA assisted NRA-funded Republicans in restricting the National Institutes of Health from spending taxpayer monies on gun violence research in 2011. They cited the fact that “a gun is not a disease” and pointed toward non-government research available to determine the impact of gun ownership on the general public.
President Obama has called for federal bureaucracies to interpret the DWA literally; and stop equating research with advocacy.
Garen Wintenute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPR) at the University of California at Davis (UCD) pointed out that because “there is no research” into gun violence, “it is harder to make suggestions for policy reform.”
Wintenute said: “And if you have a vested interest in stopping policy reform, what better way to do it than to choke off the research? It was brilliant and it worked. And my question is how many people died as a result?”