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Is gun violence like a disease? Doctors think so

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Doctors target gun violence as a social diseaseIs gun violence like a disease? Doctors think so

Dr. Stephen W. Hargarten poses for a photo Wednesday at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Hargarten helped many of the victims of the Sunday, Aug. 5 shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

MILWAUKEE -- Mass shootings have rattled nerves and renewed calls for stricter gun laws. Doctors are thinking bigger. Gun violence is a social disease, they say, and it could be curbed with a public health approach like the product safety changes and driving laws that slashed traffic fatalities decades ago, even as cars on the road increased.

For example, guardrails are now curved to the ground instead of having sharp metal ends that stick out and pose a hazard in a crash. Health experts learned they had to change the environment — not just try to make people better drivers.

The same could be done with guns, some say.

A public health approach involves analyzing what makes someone more likely to shoot, or someone more likely to be a victim. One study found firearm owners were more likely than those with no guns at home to binge drink or to drink and drive.

Manufacturers could fix defects to make guns less likely to fire accidentally. Technology could be added so only the owner could fire the weapon (many police officers and others are shot with their own guns).

Controversial, to say the least. Some people want to reinstate the ban that used to exist on assault weapons. Others want to outlaw multiple magazines that allow guns to be fired rapidly and repeatedly. Loopholes could be closed so that felons could not buy guns through private sales (gun shops are barred from selling to them).

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