Expert Panel Offers Suggestions to Curb Gun Violence in New Report

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

December 2, 2013

Gun violence has been highlighted across America over recent years, and the debate over gun rights has also shared the spotlight.

The discussion came to Charlottesville on Monday, as experts shared new research at the University of Virginia.

"What is wrong with our country when dangerous individuals have easy access to firearms, and what are we doing about it?" said Lori Haas, field director for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Haas committed her life to finding ways to ending gun violence after her daughter was shot in the head twice at Virginia Tech in 2007. Her daughter survived the shooting.

Now, a new report called "Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-based Approach for State Policy" highlights recommendations based on research into how to curb gun violence.

"There are rights at stake. There's research to play and to understand," said Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. "Over the past six months, we really worked hard to look at the evidence, communicate with each other and come up with the best recommendation."

Experts in a variety of fields ranging from mental health to public health developed the report. One recommendation to save lives is one much debated across the country -- improve the background check procedures.

"This is saying what works, what doesn't, how do you balance this complex mix of rights and public safety," Horwitz said.

Organizers said one of the main goals of the report and panel discussion was education to find new approaches to preventing gun violence from escalating in the future.

"We need to try to shift the focus, or add an additional and important focus, on people that do not have histories of mental hospitalization but are at elevated risk of violence that we can tell based on the data," said Richard Bonnie, a professor of medicine and law at the University of Virginia.

The report says people with mental illnesses are responsible for about 5 percent of violent crimes. It's others with some criminal history, like those with restraining orders against them or multiple DUIs, who display warning signs and may need to be researched before purchasing guns.

"Let's look at those indicators, let's look at that evidence and build policy around preventing access to firearms by people who are deemed dangerous," Haas said.

Organizers said they will present this new report to lawmakers in an effort to reform gun policies, ultimately saving lives in the future.

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