BOSTON (CBS) – American children between the ages of five and 14 are 13 times more likely to be murdered with guns than children in other countries, according to a Harvard researcher.
That is one of the statistics David Hemenway, who directs the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at the School of Public Health, says should be shifting the mindset of the American people.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern reports
“It’s an enormous issue and compared to other developing countries, it is a uniquely American problem,” Hemenway told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern. “All 25 other industrialized democracies, even though many of them have lots of guns, don’t have our problems.”
In Hemenway’s research, his team looked at murder, suicide and death rates pertaining to guns in other first world countries.
“Even though there is no evidence we are more criminal or even more violent, if you look at any age group or gender, we just look terrible.”
Hemenway’s research found the kindergarten through eighth grade age group was ten times more likely to find a gun and commit suicide and also ten times more likely to be killed unintentionally with a gun.
“A child is 13 times more likely to be murdered here than say a child in Italy, Norway or Japan,” he said.
The non-gun related homicide, death and suicide rates are average in the United States.
“There are not only so many handguns and assault weapons but we have such weak laws,” Hemenway said.
Researchers point to Canada’s gun laws which require a 28-day waiting period to buy a gun, statements from two family members or friends in support of owning a gun, notification of the spouse or ex-spouse and a stringent background check as evidence of other nation’s stricter laws.
“In every country you need a background check to buy a gun. In every country you need a background check much stronger than what we have here,” Hemenway said.
Hemenway says though the research is alarming, he is not looking to blame anyone.
“In public health you try to prevent,” he said. “Just think to yourself how can we prevent this problem from happening. If you use that approach, you can think of a lot of ways to reduce the problems we have and still have guns.”
Changing the social norms around guns and gun-ownership are one of the recommendations the researchers have.
Things like making sure guns are secure and cannot be stolen and as a citizen, taking guns away from gun-owning friends who may be going through tough times.
“Just like we don’t let friends drive drunk, we don’t let our friends keep guns when they are going through a bad patch.”