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Dr. Ranney on gun violence: ‘This is not an impossible problem.’

After two mass shootings and an announcement from President Biden about "ghost guns," a public health expert offers encouragement.

A 9mm pistol build kit is displayed at the White House as President Joe Biden announced a final version of his administration's new regulations on "ghost guns." AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In the wake of this week’s mass shooting in New York City and President Joe Biden’s announcement of new rules applying to so-called “ghost guns,” Dr. Megan Ranney took to Twitter to reinforce that there are steps we can take to prevent future mass shootings. 

This week has seen two mass shootings each leave more than 10 people injured — one in Brooklyn Tuesday and one on Sunday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“Each shooting changes people — survivors, those who weren’t shot, families, 1st responders, communities — forever,” Ranney wrote. “And each one is preventable.”


Ranney, the academic dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a public health researcher who studies gun violence, went on to point to resources like The Violence Project which has research that shows that 80% of shooters are in crisis prior to the shooting. 

She also pointed to an NBC opinion piece from 2019 that lays out proven tactics to prevent school shootings. The piece, written by Dewey G. Cornell and Matthew J. Mayer, who both have experience with school shooting research or interventions, says in a study of 41 school shootings, in every case there was a missed opportunity for intervention with the shooter.

It points to behavioral threat assessment and an intervention team as the most promising means of intervention.

“After every school shooting, we hear lamentations about our inability to keep our children safe from violence,” wrote Cornell and Mayer. “However, the Secret Service study and dozens of others tell us what we need to do: Schools are safest when we attend to the mental health and well-being of our youth.”

Earlier this week, Ranney attended Biden’s announcement of new steps cracking down on untraceable, homemade weapons called ghost guns. 

Ghost guns make up a relatively small percentage of guns seized by law enforcement, according to CNN, but are not insignificant. For example, in 2021 about 20% of guns seized by police in San Francisco were ghost guns, CNN reported. In 2021 New York saw about 375 ghost guns seized, or 8.33% of the total, and in Chicago 455, or 3.76%, were ghost guns, up from 130 ghost guns recovered in 2020 in the city. 


Biden’s Monday announcement changes what is defined as a firearm, and makes serial numbers mandatory for ghost guns.

According to AP, building your own firearm is perfectly legal, as long as it is for personal use. 

The new rule would include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or receiver of a long gun, in the definition of a firearm and would require those parts to be licensed and have serial numbers. It also would institute background checks to purchase ghost gun kits, just like is required for the purchase of other firearms. 

“It’s no longer a ghost,” Biden said Monday. “It has a return address. And it’s going to help save lives, reduce crime and get more criminals off the streets.”

Ranney praised Biden for the announcement and said gun violence is a public health problem that we can only fix together. 

She wrapped up her Tuesday thread with a reminder that all hope is not lost. 

“And to those who have given up hope: please, don’t. We have @CDCgov funding for the 1st time in 2 decades. We have unprecedented community & stakeholder partnerships. We have new policies & new programs,” Ranney wrote. “We have far to go – but a journey of 1000 miles, starts with the 1st step.”


Here is her full thread:


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