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Nearly every American knows a gun violence victim, BU report says


Nearly all Americans will know a victim of gun violence over the course of a 60-year lifetime, according to a study from Boston University’s School of Public Health.

The study demonstrated that the likelihood of a person of any race knowing a gun violence victim is 99.85 percent. Black and Hispanic Americans were slightly more likely to know a victim of gun violence than white Americans or other races, according to the study.

These estimates were obtained using fatal and nonfatal gun injury rates from reports released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in combination with the generally accepted estimate of the size of an American’s social network.

Bindu Kalesan, a medicine professor at BU, co-authored the study with her colleague Sandro Galea, dean of SPH.

“The popular mindset is that gun violence happens to someone else and not me,” Kalesan wrote in an email. “Our study intends to show the reality of how close we can be to gun violence, if we consider our social networks.”

Kalesan wrote that the results of the study were unsurprising, given the high incidences of both fatal and nonfatal gun injuries in the United States. In countries with strict gun control laws, the incidence of violence is much lower, she noted.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said he was shocked by the results of the study, but he urged students not to agonize over the threat of gun violence.

“We happen to live in a city that does not have a high incidence of gun violence,” Riley said. “This part of Boston [where BU’s campus is] has less of a problem, but that does not mean that it is not a major issue facing society.”

At the same time, Riley emphasized the importance of students remaining active and alert in preventing gun violence.

“People need to be educated and aware,” Riley said. “[The phrase] ‘See something, say something’ really is true.”

On average, 33,000 U.S. residents are shot dead each year, while about 82,000 will survive a gunshot injury, according to Kalesan.

“The reality is, 90 people are shot dead every day,” Kalesan wrote. “A total of 315 people are shot every day. These are hard facts.”

Kalesan cited several problems with the way the gun epidemic has been addressed in the United States. She said gun violence has not been adequately dealt with as a public health issue, due to the differentiation in gun control efforts between the states, and offered several areas of potential improvement.

Currently there [are] very little research dollars available for researchers to study this complex problem,” Kalesan wrote.About one million have  …  survived a gunshot, and there are no programs that are available for the survivors, since they live the rest of their lives in and out of hospitals. So, we need research funds and social justice initiatives for survivors.”

Several students said they could see the importance of heightened gun control measures — Sofia Pedroso, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the government needs to do more to tackle the threat of gun violence.

“One of my really good friends actually had a very mentally ill cousin, and [the cousin] ended up shooting half of his family on Thanksgiving,” Pedroso said. “Hopefully people are going to realize that there needs to be more gun protection policies in the United States.”

Victoria Wasylak, a senior in the College of Communication, said gun control is an important issue in Tuesday’s presidential election.

“Because of the gun violence, there are a lot of people who don’t want their gun rights taken away, so … they’re going to be voting for Donald Trump because they’re so concerned about the Second Amendment,” Wasylak said. “On the other end, [for] people … who have been paying more attention to the impact that gun violence has had on so many Americans, they’re going to be voting for Hillary because they want to see more reform [in] gun control.”

Connor York, a senior in CAS, said although he’s frustrated by the current status of gun violence, he doesn’t believe a compromise will be reached any time soon.

“I don’t think any more campaigning would sort of change people’s minds, [especially those] who do not want to have any regulations,” York said.

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