Rep. Cori Bush Wants to Take a ‘Public Health’ Approach to Gun Violence. Here’s What That Means

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Is this going to be the Democrats’ latest effort to attack the right to keep and bear arms? It very well could be.

During a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting on “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) decried the spate of gun violence in the United States and took the opportunity to propose designating this trend as a “public health emergency.” This is not the first time Democrats have called for such an approach, but it just might be gaining some steam.

“In St. Louis and nationwide, gun violence is a public health emergency, and commonsense regulations are a necessity,” she said, also noting that the United States has more guns than people, with about 400 million privately owned firearms in a population of 332 million, making it home to almost half of the world’s civilian firearms.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) expressed concern on Thursday that the Democrats’ next move to regulate guns will involve declaring firearm violence a public health emergency. Gaetz warned that the Democrats would use this declaration, as they did with the COVID emergency, to restrict Americans’ freedom.

“While she and I disagree strongly on this issue, her beliefs are sincere and they are strong and they are powerful, particularly when she expresses them,” Gaetz said. “And so when she says to people that she wants to defund the police, she means it. And when she says in this committee meeting that gun violence is a public health emergency, she means that too.”

“And our fellow Americans know the impact of folks up here in Washington declaring everything and anything a public health emergency,” Gaetz continued. “It means you’re more likely to be locked in your homes, deprived of your freedoms, less healthy, less safe, less secure and less able to live a truly American life.”

Gaetz further warned that the enhanced authorities associated with such a declaration would be abused by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) if the left pushes the idea of gun violence as a public health emergency.

The concept of a public health emergency for firearm violence has been under discussion for years. In 2023, the Democrats have revived their campaign to implement new gun control measures after a spate of recent mass shootings.

But what would such an eventuality entail?

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV) published a report in 2020 titled “The Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Prevention,” in which it advocated for such an approach to solving gun violence in America.

“Public health is the science of reducing and preventing injury, disease, and death and promoting the health and well-being of populations through the use of data, research, and effective policies and practices,” the authors wrote. “A public health approach to prevent gun violence is a population level approach that addresses both firearm access and the factors that contribute to and protect from gun violence.”

The authors continued:

We have used the public health approach to successfully eradicate diseases, reduce smoking-related deaths, and decrease car crashes. We can use this same approach to prevent gun violence in all its forms and strive towards a society where everyone can live free from gun violence.

So, how would they use a public health emergency to deal with gun violence? Here are some of their suggestions:

Allocate funds to the CDC and the NIH to research gun violence.

Allow federal agencies to regulate firearm manufacturers and ensure gun safety.

Require firearm purchasers to submit an application, undergo a background check, and take safety education to obtain a license to own a firearm.

Pass firearm registration laws to ensure that firearms are registered at each point of sale.

Expand firearm prohibitions to include individuals who are at elevated risk for violence.

Require manufacturers to make fireams safer, including requiring that guns be outfitted with microstamping technology.

Enact stronger age requirements for owning or possessing all types of firearms.

Require gun owners to renew their license on a routine basis.

Allow Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate safety of firearms and ensure industry accountability.

Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) to hold firearm manufacturers accountable for dangerous and reckless distribution of firearms.

That’s right, folks, imposing a public health policy to gun violence is just another fancy way of saying “let’s pass stricter gun control laws and make it harder for responsible Americans to obtain and carry firearms.”

It’s the same old song, isn’t it?

These people want us to believe that the solution to criminals using guns to victimize others is to place more restrictions on people who aren’t using guns to victimize others. At no point in the report did the authors propose solutions that would stop criminals from obtaining firearms illegally, even though these people account for the vast majority of gun homicides. It’s almost like they don’t actually want to curb gun violence and are only seeking to further their agenda to disarm Americans.

With Republicans in control of the House, it seems unlikely that the anti-gunner crowd would be able to implement this policy on a national level—although we should never underestimate the tendency for some Republicans to cave on the gun issue.

However, this approach has also been proposed at the state and city level, so it is entirely possible that Democrats politicians might try to further restrict gun ownership in this way.

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