Intended for healthcare professionals


Common sense gun policy reforms for the United States

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 21 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8672
  1. Katherine A Vittes, research associate,
  2. Jon S Vernick, associate professor,
  3. Daniel W Webster, professor
  1. 1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Health Policy and Management, Center for Gun Policy and Research, Baltimore, MD 21205-1996, USA
  1. kvittes{at}

The most recent mass shooting has led to a rare opportunity to effect change

In the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December—where 20 young children and seven adults, including the perpetrator, were killed—there seems to be a newfound willingness among policy makers and the public to consider common sense gun policy reforms. This is a debate that until now has been conspicuously absent in the United States.

Although mass shootings have increased in recent years, the resultant deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Guns are used to kill about about 86 people in the US each day,1 and the US has long been an outlier among high income countries in its firearm death rate. This difference is most starkly illustrated by the homicide rate in the US, which is seven times higher than that of 22 other high income nations. The high rate of homicides in the US is driven by a firearm homicide rate that is 20 times higher than in other countries.2

Contrary to pro-gun lobby claims, research into prevention of gun violence has shown that reasonable reforms could reduce the excessively high rates of firearm deaths in the US while preserving …

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