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Firearm Injuries and Public Health  

Linda Dahlberg, Alexander Butchart, James Mercy, and Thomas Simon

An important function of public health is to prevent injuries or to lessen their impact when they occur. An estimated 251,000 people worldwide die each year from a firearm-related death and many more suffer nonfatal injuries with consequences that can last a lifetime. Firearm injuries, which include those that are intentionally self-inflicted, unintentional, or from an act of interpersonal violence, are heavily concentrated in the Americas, driven largely by firearm homicides. Firearm-related deaths and injuries disproportionately impact males and younger populations and are associated with factors such as access, substance use, adverse childhood experiences, involvement in high-risk social networks, drug trafficking, density of alcohol outlets, and neighborhood and social disadvantage. While progress is being made to understand firearm injuries and how to effectively prevent them, much more needs to be done to improve the availability and timeliness of data; apply the knowledge that is generated to effectively reduce firearm-related injuries, deaths, and costs; strengthen the scientific infrastructure; and move countries closer to achieving the violence-related targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Article

Police Officer Suicide  

John M. Violanti

All too often we emphasize the dangers of police work, but seem to neglect the hidden psychological danger of this profession. Suicide is a consequence of that hidden danger. It is a clear indication of the intolerable strain placed on the police officer’s work and life roles. Policing is an occupation replete with stress and traumatic incidents. For example, witnessing death, encountering abused children, and experiencing violent street combat weigh heavily as precipitants to depression, alcohol use, and suicide among police. Ideas as far back as Freud’s aggression theory relate to the police because officers cannot legally express anger and aggression outwardly and turn it within. Following Freud, other studies examined the frustration of police work and how it was turned inward. Other theoretical ideas concerning police suicide that have emerged over the years are included in this article—police cultural socialization, strain theory, and interpersonal suicide theory. Scientific research on police suicide has helped to focus on this topic. Much research is on suicide rates in an effort to determine the scope of this problem. Several recent studies are discussed in this article, including a national study. Such studies, however, are not without controversy and more work is necessary to clarify the validity of findings. There is lack of data available on police suicide, which adds to the problem of research. Many believe that causes of police suicide are really no different than those in other groups in society, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or significant loss. While scholars cannot yet be certain that police work is an etiological suicide risk factor, we can with some assurance state that it serves as a fertile arena for suicide precipitants. Culturally approved alcohol use and maladaptive coping, firearms availability, and exposure to psychologically adverse incidents all add to the suicide nexus. Last, and most important, the issue of police suicide prevention is discussed. Likely the biggest challenge in prevention is convincing officers to go for help. The police and societal culture at large attach a stigma to suicide which is difficult to deal with. Additionally, the police culture does not allow for weakness of any kind, either physical or psychological. Several promising prevention approaches are discussed. Given the reluctance to report the deaths of police officers as suicides unfortunately leaves us in a position of “best guess” based on what evidence we can collect. Looking to the future, the development of a national database focused on police suicide would help to establish the actual scope of this tragic loss of life. Interventions need to more efficaciously target at-risk police officers. More research, using longitudinal study designs, is needed to inform interventions and, in particular, to determine how suicide prevention efforts can be modified to meet the unique needs of law enforcement officers.

Article

Asia in the Gunpowder Revolution  

Scott C. Levi

Contrary to long-held notions that gunpowder weapons technologies were devised in the West and gradually transmitted eastward into Asia, more recent scholarship indicates that innovations flowed in both directions. Scholars have also come to recognize that there was no uniformity in the ways that states implemented gunpowder weapons, and that multiple factors relating to environment, demographics, and cultural preferences informed decisions about when and how to embrace the new technology. The major Asian agrarian states of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (the so-called Gunpowder Empires) and the Ming and Qing dynasties in China implemented gunpowder weapons differently. The Ottomans were the most aggressive in this regard, the Mughals preferred a hybrid force, and the Safavids long favored cavalry. Chinese militaries employed hybrid forces to great effect, but in later years a lengthy peace during the Qing era slowed the implementation of new technologies. In Central Asia and other places where rulers could rely on large numbers of well-trained, fast-moving mounted archers and a nearly endless supply of horses, they found little reason to rush to embrace what for several centuries represented an expensive, slow, and unreliable technology.

Article

Guns in Africa  

Felix Brahm

Guns have loomed large in many African societies since early modern times. This has much to do with their military and economic potential, but also with the influential social life they often obtained. Being instruments of destruction in the first place, the history of guns is closely connected with various forms of violence, especially with warfare and hunting; however, the significance of the gun went far beyond this. Guns were, for instance, applied in every-day protection of crops and livestock and integrated into ceremonies and festivities; they became signifiers of royal and chiefly power, objects of gender identification, attributes of professional groups, and markers of social status and racial difference. Studying the social life of guns allows for new insights into the material foundations of cultural domains and the construction of social hierarchies; at the same time, it demonstrates that the social and cultural meanings of objects, including guns, are never stable and are subject to constant change. The history of guns in Africa is also one of appropriation and domestication of foreign technology, rising consumerism, and efforts to overcome dependency from importation. The presence of guns often had strong impacts on social and natural environments, both physically and mentally. Studying gun violence and arms regimes from an historical perspective helps us to better understand processes of political centralization and fragmentation, practices of resistance against colonial rule, and also the forming of authoritarian regimes and criminal organisations. The ambiguous history of the gun resonates in contemporary images and memories, connected with both order and violence and liberation and oppression.

Article

Warfare in Premodern Southeast Asia  

Michael W. Charney

Warfare in premodern Southeast Asia, roughly that fought up until the end of the 19th century, was shaped by the environment across the region. Maritime trade connections brought the introduction and circulation of external models of warfare that would help to frame the way warfare in the region was depicted in some of the indigenous literature and art (including the influence of the Indian epics on shadow puppet theater). Firearms played a more direct role in determining the development of warfare in the region over the course of the early modern period. As a result of better firearms, the elephant declined in battlefield importance and was increasingly replaced by cavalry. In the 18th century, Southeast Asians fielded some of their best-organized armies, and in the early 19th century there was a temporary revival of naval strength in parts of the region, particularly in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the introduction of the steamship and better European military technology from the 1820s ushered in the decline of the remaining Southeast Asian armies by the end of the 19th century. Although indigenous states would attempt to modernize and catch up with Europe militarily, all of Southeast Asia, save for Thailand, fell under European control.

Article

Armed Robbery (Commercial)  

Rob Hornsby and Dick Hobbs

The United Kingdom has seen the rise and subsequent demise of armed robbery by serious and organized criminals. The emergence of armed robbery must be considered within a context of criminal progression forged by the wider political economy and its developments, which shape the opportunities and characteristics of professional criminals. The shift from a cash-based economy towards a credit-constructed economic milieu witnessed the demise of craft crimes such as safe-cracking and the growth of project-based criminality such as armed robbery. The subsequent decline in professional armed robbers attacking banks, post offices, building societies, and cash-in-transit targets can be regarded as the result of control-of-crime strategies and situational crime prevention tactics. There has been increasing use of security measures, including (but not exclusively) within the banking sector, such as in-house closed-circuit television (CCTV), indelible dyes for tainting stolen money, and wider “risk society” measures including, for example, widespread street CCTV, automated number plate recognition, and an increasing shift to credit or debit card transactions. This approach to situational crime control has been successful, leading “elite” professional criminals to seek alternative illicit opportunities and leaving contemporary armed robbers, generally amateurs, deskilled and often desperate individuals.