Medical College Professor and Chair, Dr. Stephen Hargarten
In the wake of the latest mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Medical College of Wisconsin professor Dr. Stephen Hargarten has penned a letter urging the medical community to conduct more scientific research to uncover the causes of gun violence.
“We must first recognize gun violence as a public health issue,” he writes. “In order to truly understand and attack the issue, we must rigorously research this at the highest level.”
As Director at the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Hargarten considers gun violence to be a form of “biopsychosocial disease,” something that should be studied scientifically rather than overlooked as political enigma. It is biologic  in that release of kinetic energy from the bullet tearing through the victims’ bodies, and psychosocial in how it greatly impacts the lives of the survivors who witness them.
Hargarten’s past research has reflected an intersection of injury and violence prevention. He has also contributed to health policy addressing the burden of biosocial diseases. In fact, Hargarten’s work in linking data systems for understanding violent deaths informed the development of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System .
Firearms kill more than 30,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. Yet, scientific research into the causes of gun violence is lacking. This is partially due to policy barriers, such as the Dickey Amendment , but Hargarten says there is also a general lack of collaboration.
Whether shootings are increasing because of concealed carry laws, overlooked mental health or other societal factors, wielding science can give medical researchers the power to uncover some of those answers — and use those findings to save lives, Hargarten says.
“We need to continue to understand this biopsychosocial disease burden by keeping our focus on the science,” says Hargarten. “By asking the tough questions, rigorously testing hypotheses, and objectively disseminating our findings so that other can learn, so that we can continue to learn, and so we can start to make a difference.”
“WE ARE NOT HELPLESS,” he adds.