A "public health approach" to violent crime makes no sense

For years now, gun control activists have been yammering about the need to treat “gun violence” as a “public health epidemic,” though it’s often unclear what they actually mean by that phrase. Take the latest column by Nashville Tennessean columnist Kyra Watts, for example. Her piece boldly declares that “gun violence is a public health emergency that requires urgent action,” but her supposed public health solutions aren’t bold, tailored for urgency, or even specific enough to pin down in some cases.


In fact, Watts spends the first 23 paragraphs of her column priming the emotional pump before making the switch to her policy prescriptions; describing lockdown drills in high school, recounting several high profile shootings, pointing out the rise in violent crime across the country, disparaging the state of Tennessee and its Republican-led legislature and Gov. Bill Lee for approving Constitutional Carry legislation last year, and sharing the story of a high school classmate who was shot and killed before he could attend college.

I still think about the fact that his parents had to bury their baby just two weeks before his graduation and 18th birthday.

No parent should ever have to bury their child because of an act of gun violence. It’s time for a new approach to solve this country’s gun violence issue.

And what is this new approach? As it turns out, it’s mostly the same stale ideas of the gun control lobby, but rebranded as a “public health approach.”

We need laws that strengthen the background check system in order to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. We need to initiate and prioritize programs for local city gun violence and help heal those devastated communities that were impacted.

It’s time to heal this traumatized country by making schools safer for children. It’s time that we start to treat gun violence like it’s a public health emergency — because it is.


That’s it, by the way. Those four sentences, which include just a single solitary specific proposal, are all that Kyra Watts could come up with for her “new approach.”

With all due respect to Watts, we’re not dealing with a public health crisis here. We’re dealing with a public safety crisis in many American cities; and one that’s been exacerbated over the past two years by a pandemic that closed courts and caused officials to decrease jail and prison populations (not to mention the blue state governors who shut down gun stores), the violent riots and civil unrest that erupted after the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, and the corresponding push to defund the police.

A universal background check law is going to fix all that? I can’t help but notice that Watts doesn’t explain how that would happen, anymore than she elaborated on what her ideas for making schools safer for children would look like. Her ideas amount to a tired rehashing of gun control talking points dressed up in a lab coat and stethoscope.

Even if you want to call our current crime spike a public health crisis, what on earth would give Watts the idea that our government can adequately deal with one of those? Has she paid any attention at all to what’s going on in the country at the moment? COVID cases are soaring, tests are few and far between, supply chain issues are getting worse, and we might have a vaccine to deal with the Omicron variant sometime in March… after the Omicron wave is predicted to have passed.


The one thing idea from Watts that isn’t worth dismissing out of hand is her call to prioritize local community-based violence prevention groups, but even then it’s important that due diligence is given so that support goes to those programs with a track record of success. I’ve seen cases where supposed anti-violence activists were actually selling guns to gang members (and undercover police officers) while raking in millions of dollars in grant money, so I’m not on board with the thought of just throwing money at any group that claims it can make a difference.

Watts may want to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic, but the best way to reduce violence is simply to treat violent crime as the public safety problem that it is. Focus on the most violent and prolific offenders. Target the most violent corners in the most violent neighborhoods. Don’t offer career criminals sweetheart plea deals that swiftly return them to the street. And most importantly, respect the right of the people to keep and bear arms in self-defense instead of turning gun ownership into a criminal offense punishable by years in prison and a felony record.




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