1. Germany and Japan, countries with notably low rates of gun violence, rely on stringent possession laws and background checks.
2. Brazil and Honduras have high rates of gun violence and loosely enforced firearm acquisition legislation. India has high rates of gun violence despite stringent gun control legislation, which is largely attributed to high rates of illegal gun trade.
3. The United States has a ten-fold higher risk of firearm related deaths per year compared to economically comparable nations. Increased preventative outreach and legislative efforts to address the public health threat with insights from reforms implemented in other countries is warranted.
Study Rundown: There are over 40,000 firearm related deaths per year in the United States, a ten fold increase in relation to other economically comparable nations. Despite this, the US Surgeon General has not yet commissioned a report on gun violence prevention. In an effort to combat gun violence, other countries have utilized a number of strategies including weapons bans, firearms buy-back programs, requirements for extensive training and background checks prior to purchase, and expanding preventative social and public health campaigns. This review compares five nations with a diverse range of political, geographical, and socioeconomic circumstances, and their strategies and barriers towards stemming firearm related violence.
Germany and Japan have low rates of firearm related deaths and stringent requirements for obtaining weapons. In Germany, gun ownership is not uncommon. However, comprehensive background checks are mandatory and include psychological assessments for prospective owners under the age of 25. Germany has passed timely and effective legislation that has enacted significant changes in mental health surveillance and firearm restrictions in response to mass shootings. Similarly in Japan, one must pass firearm safety classes as well as a background check that includes psychological evaluation and interviews with family members prior to obtaining a license. Japan also enforces notably strict regulations regarding the type of firearms that can be purchased.
In contrast, Honduras, Brazil, and India have high rates of firearm related deaths. In Honduras, this has been attributed to low rates of successful murder convictions, and in Brazil, gun control restrictions continue to be lax despite increasingly oppositional public sentiment. Both Honduras and Brazil are impacted by lack of enforcement of gun control legislation, loose possession and firearm registration requirements, and poor transparency. In contrast, India has high rates of firearm related mortalities despite strict gun ownership legislation, which has largely been attributed to high rates of illegal gun trade and a need for further preventative and public health efforts.
This review demonstrates that gun violence in the United States is a public health crisis that needs to be further addressed. Expanding preventative outreach efforts and enacting and enforcing comprehensive gun laws has proven to be effective for a number of countries, and may reflect an important opportunity for collaboration for the United States to address firearm injuries.
Relevant Reading: Global Mortality From Firearms: 1960-2016.
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