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Princeton University Declares Gun Violence ‘Public Health Epidemic’

Princeton University has declared gun violence a “public health epidemic.”

“In the context of public health, an epidemic is what we face,” said Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman last week.

Tilghman, in her speech at the “Culture of Violence Summit,” hosted May 28 at the Ivy League university, went on to compare gun violence to smoking in public, pollution and car accidents involving children.

All three of those issues have led to what many contend are onerous oversight laws that restrict freedoms. Take, for example, some municipal laws which prohibit apartment dwellers from smoking cigarettes in their own homes. And a state law in California mandates children must use car seats until age 8. As for pollution, there’s an entire government bureaucracy in the EPA created to enforce various regulations.

Nevertheless, those laws passed under the auspices of public health mandates and collective safety. So too could gun-control measures, Tilghman argued.

Tilghman essentially posited that if the gun-violence issue were tackled from a public health stance, like those three issues, the debate would ultimately favor gun-control proponents and lead to stricter gun-control laws.

“If lives are to be saved and injuries reduced, we need to approach this  issue not in terms of the Second Amendment — with its hotly contested meaning and appeal to abstract rights — but in terms of concrete national well-being, much as we have dealt with smoking in public settings, industrial emissions, or the use of seatbelts and child restraints in motor vehicles,” she said. “At a fundamental level, we must accept that the problem of gun-related violence directly or indirectly affects us all, and that the campaign against it will not be won by banner headlines but by education, one mind at a time.”

Campus officials, in a news release on the summit, touted Tilghman’s remarks as setting the stage “for examining gun violence through the same lens as other public health threats.”

Other academics at the conference concurred the strategy could be successful in creating new gun-control laws.

David Knowlton, president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said the successful efforts in reducing car-related injuries and fatalities were a result of a public health call to action, and similar initiatives have addressed “value-based subjects” such as sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and smoking, according to campus officials.

“It is my hope that we will go beyond discussion of personal rights and focus on collective safety, for I firmly believe that this is the only ‘path to yes,’ ” Knowlton said.

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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IMAGE: Clemens Riewerts/Flickr

About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

Add to the Discussion

  • Marv

    A prime example of “education beyond intelligence”. .There was less firearm violence when
    you could mail order a gun.

  • Bison70

    “we need to approach this issue not in terms of the Second Amendment —
    with its hotly contested meaning and appeal to abstract rights — but in
    terms of concrete national well-being”

    And here I thought the whole point of the Bill of Rights was to guarantee that the government can’t simply ignore the rights of the people just by claiming something like “national well-being”.

    It’s scary, but good to know, that some of our most prestigious academic institutions apparently hold the idea of a constitutional right in contempt.

  • ronwf

    “It is my hope that we will go beyond discussion of personal rights and focus on collective safety, ” David Knowlton

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

  • Fred_Z

    I hereby declare bored, idle, tax sucking, lefty, intellectuals to be a ”public health epidemic.”

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    — Mr. Choi of Va. Tech shooting — obvious mentally ill at college, no one did anything.
    — Tucson shooter — obviously mentally ill at college, police not called.

    — U. of Colo shooter — obviously mentally ill, police not called.
    — Newtown shooter — obviously mentally ill, police not called.

    Princeton lady wants to stop this — she can start by having her mental state examined. Then all her buddies, including Obama, Val Jarrett, Susan Rice, Billy BOMBER Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Van Jones, et. al.

    Ridiculous, absurd, and just stupid.

  • del2124

    I mean, you can argue that gun violence is not a public health epidemic or you can argue that the sort of policies we put in place to address public health epidemics aren’t worth it, but it’s hardly worth it to point out that efforts to address public health problems are entail curtailing some liberties. Is it worth it? Is it constitutional? Do the safety precautions work?