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Controlling the Gun Epidemic

January 28, 1994

For decades one could correctly assume that, just like clockwork, the nation's annual motor-vehicle death toll would surpass the previous year's. But since 1968 fatalities have dropped by more than 21%. Experts credit safety innovations and tougher legislation in that period, and they estimate that 250,000 lives have been spared, even though traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death by injury in the United States.

Drawing from that success, a report issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control urges that a similar systematic approach be taken in dealing with another serious health menace: gun violence.

Without such an approach, the study warns, deaths from gunshots will outpace deaths from traffic accidents within the next decade. Unfortunately, that's already the case in seven states, California among them.

It's sad that even though there have been more than 280,000 gun homicides since 1968--and thousands of additional accidents and suicides involving firearms--many elected officials in Washington and Sacramento continue to be intimidated by the politics of the gun issue.

What's needed is public education, safety devices and firearm regulation through legislation. That's not an easy proposition, given the 210 million firearms in circulation--and given the powerful and well-financed gun lobby. But America has got to stop shooting itself, in more than just the foot.

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