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Posts Tagged ‘gun violence’

My Law and Public Health Book

November 1st, 2010 2 comments
Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates

Just about an hour ago, I received my ten advance copies of the book I’ve edited and contributed to, entitled:

Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective (Cambridge University Press 2011). If you click on the link, you’ll be e-whisked away to the on-line catalogue page, which describes the book and lets you click on an excerpt, which is the Introduction (which I wrote).

I’ll have more to say about this when officially published (although you can order it now; just saying….), but here’s the description:

This book offers fresh approaches to a variety of social and political issues that have become highly polarized and resistant to compromise by examining them through a population-based public health perspective. The topics included are some of the most contentious: abortion and reproductive rights; end-of-life issues, including the right to die and the treatment of pain; the connection between racism and poor health outcomes for African-Americans; the right of same-sex couples to marry; the toll of gun violence and how to reduce it; domestic violence and how the criminal justice model fails to deal with it effectively; and how tort compensation and punitive damages can further public health goals. People at every point along the political spectrum will find the book enlightening and informative.

Written by ten authors, all of whom have cross-disciplinary expertise, this book shifts the focus away from the point of view of rights, politics, or morality and examines the effect of laws and policies from the perspective of public health and welfare.

As you might guess, I wrote the chapter on marriage equality.

This is my first book (well, sort of mine), and I’m very excited. (To buy at a discount, enter code: F10CULHANE; the discount is available for a limited time.) As I said, I’ll write more when the book is officially published.

Projecting A Cyber Snowball from my Laptop

February 25th, 2010 1 comment
A useful spell in the tub.

A useful spell in the tub.

Just a few short minutes ago, as the snow began to really pile up and the wind to howl, I hit “send” on the manuscript my seven co-authors and I have been working on for what seems like a decade. (In fact, the project began with a symposium almost two years ago; we signed with Cambridge almost a year ago; and the chapters began coming in by this Fall). I’m the editor of the volume, with all of the great and challenging tasks that position commands. So what is this book, and when will you be able to find it at a bookstore near you? Thanks for asking.

The book takes some of the most red-hot, and polarized issues on the political landscape and puts them through a public health, population-based wringer. The topics are: reproductive (abortion) rights; end of life matters; marriage equality (my chapter); the persistent connection between racism and health disparities; gun violence; domestic violence; and tort law and reform. How might these questions and issues be illuminated by looking at them from a perspective that didn’t focus so much on rights and morality, but on the health and welfare of the population? Through some cosmic stroke of good fortune, I managed to convince some of the very brightest and most thoughtful legal and public health scholars to participate, and editing the book was a special privilege (albeit an exhausting and occasionally frustrating one, as when documents wouldn’t do what they were requested, then commanded, to do. I hate Word but that’s another issue entirely.)

I’m guessing at this point that the book will be out later this year, but it’s a bit early to say for sure. But now I can say with confidence that it’s going to happen. (Now where did I put that Grand Marnier?)

I’ll be shamelessly flogging the book in the months to come. What is its title, you might wonder? Well, that’s the one thing I’m not crazy about — it has a tentative title that can still be changed. I’ve been wracking my brain, but for some reason the perfect title yet eludes me (and all of us). Any ideas, readers? Please? A valuable prize to be named later awaits whoever can bring me to my feet in an Archimedes-inspired exclamation. (Archimedes might never have actually yelled “Eureka!” — but I will.)

Despair Over Guns

June 22nd, 2009 1 comment

Consistent majorities of Americans favor sensible gun-control laws. Of course, there’s disagreement as to what counts as “sensible,” but it hardly matters. No gun control of any kind seems to be possible as long as the NRA maintains its inexplicable death grip over federal law-makers.

I’ve sort of given up on the issue. A few years ago, my colleague and friend Jean Eggen and I wrote a series of articles (look for “gun” in title of articles appearing here) arguing that tort and public health law should be used to fill some of the holes that Congress had created. Since then, though, matters have only gotten worse. The nadir was reached in 2005, with the enactment of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which not only removed most theories of liability that might otherwise have prevailed in court, but also dismissed any and all pending suits, if otherwise prohibited by this new law. A shameful bipartisan majority in both chambers handed the gun lobby its greatest victory, and the outcry, except from organizations like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, was muted. Why bother?

Of course, none of this means that the problem of gun violence has gone away — just that gun control, as least at the federal level, is off the table. Name the outrage, and the gun lobby has an excuse. The ease of obtaining guns in the U.S. is fueling the drug wars in Mexico, and — I just learned — gang wars in Jamaica? The former is blamed on poor border control; I’m sure a similar response to the latter will be forthcoming. Of course, home-grown massacres elicit a collective shuddering, but no real mention of substantial restrictions on gun ownership.

Cities alone seem to understand the need for more legislative control, likely because they face the consequences of violence more routinely. Yet their efforts to do something — anything — are often rebuffed by courts that say, sometimes with legal justification — that regulation of guns is a state, and not a city matter. Pennsylvania is a good case study here. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh need better gun control laws, but the state, dominated by the rural middle, whose hunters and representatives are NRA guys, will have none of it.

Thus, Philly’s effort to stop straw purchases — where someone buys a gun for another not legally entitled to own one, like a felon or a minor — were struck down last week by an appellate court because of state supreme court precedent holding that only the state can regulate guns. (The law also would have limited gun buys to one per month, a number obviously too low to live with.) Now Pittsburgh’s anti-gun trafficking law is being challenged by the NRA, too; the Brady Center is defending the city’s right to pass this needed bill.

At this point, it seems that only a searing epidemic of gun violence beyond any we’ve seen or the rise of a lobbying group equal in money and power to the NRA can begin to bring us towards more sensible gun control; the kind that police departments all over the country routinely call for.