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Gun Safety: A Public Health Perspective

The recent outbreak of mass shootings in schools has reignited the debate over gun ownership and Americans’ right to bear arms. How can such incidents, including the latest one on October 21 at a junior high school in Sparks, Nevada, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. almost a year ago, be prevented in a country where the right to own a gun is constitutionally guaranteed?

The first step is addressing gun safety from a public health standpoint, using a multi-pronged approach, similar to that used to reduce the number of car accident fatalities, says Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He goes on to say that involves making guns safer and educating gun owners, establishing strict licensing standards, and conducting thorough background checks. He also says that ad campaigns could improve public awareness about gun safety, and that more careful consideration of how gun violence is portrayed in video games, movies and TV is needed.

Neither guns nor people exist in a vacuum, so efforts to improve gun safety require a multifaceted approach. A relationship exists between a human and a gun, much the way it exists between a human and a car, says Don Ihde, distinguished professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. Ihde explains that humans plus technology, and the range of interactions that can occur between them, determine what patterns of behavior will occur.

Safer guns

Cars now come with standard safety features such as seat belts, air bags, and collapsible fenders. In the same way, guns can be made safer, says Mozaffarian. For example, a gun can have an individualized gun lock, so that only the owner can use them.

Ihde says that a cowboy mentality exists in this country: “You need it ready in case there is an intruder!” But the statistics show that the likelihood of accidentally being shot and killed in a home with guns is much higher than in one without, or with the guns locked. For example, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, 40 percent of American homes have guns, and in 72 percent of unintentional injuries and deaths, suicides and suicide attempts, the gun was stored in the home of the victim.

The government should restrict the ownership of high-caliber, automatic weapons, Ihde says. He goes on to say that people may claim they need assault rifles in case the government comes after them; if the government does come after them, however, it will use weapons that will overwhelm anything that a private citizen would own.

The arm of the law

Every new driver must endure driver education, and pass both a written exam  and a road test in order to get their license. That is not necessarily the case for a gun: licensing laws vary by state, and federal laws are weak. These regulations are listed according to state by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.

It is remarkably easy to acquire a weapon; for example, Instagram has developed into a thriving market for the sale of firearms. In addition, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, unlicensed people can buy guns, provided that they live in the same state as the seller.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that he and his colleagues have asked inner city kids in surveys how easy it is to get a gun, and most of them say its pretty easy. He says most say they want to live in a world where it’s impossible for teens to get guns.

Safety education for gun owners and extensive background checks for prospective buyers are important, says Mozaffarian. However, in April, the U.S. Senate struck down the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, S. 649, which lobbied for limits on the sale of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines and more stringent background checks on potential gun owners.

In response, the National Rifle Association, which did not respond to several requests for comment, vowed in a press release to protect the rights of Americans to bear arms “for self defense and other legitimate purposes” when those rights are threatened.

Raising awareness

In the same way it is uncool to drive drunk, it should become uncool to visit a home  where there is an unlocked gun, says Mozaffarian. The efforts of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have stigmatized driving drunk and being charged with a DUI. People designate drivers for nights out, and a recent radio campaign featuring celebrities urges motorists not to text while driving: “It Can Wait.”

Gun safety could benefit from similar efforts, Mozaffarian says. Such efforts could include running educational programs in schools about gun safety, and having celebrities speak out against gun violence. Police could visit schools and gun shows.

Cultural shift

TV shows, movies, and video games in the U.S. glorify violence, including gun violence. Research has shown that violent media is not good for kids, because it tends to make them more aggressive, says Hemenway, who is the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Hemenway continues by saying that all first world countries face the issue of how violence is portrayed in the popular media, but what makes the U.S. different from other countries is that it has such a huge homicide problem because of its guns.

Ihde says that although he doubts that the violence portrayed in video games and movies and on TV is very influential, it is part of a broader culture in this country that runs very deep. “We have a deeply rooted notion in our culture that we do not like police controls or things of that sort,” he says.

A safer country?

And do guns necessarily make the country safer? Or, to rephrase a popular quote from the late science fiction author Robert Heinlein, is an armed society necessarily a polite society?

The answer appears to be no. Privately owned guns make the police force less effective, according to Hemenway.  “I think gun carrying can make it harder for inner city police,” he says. He believes police would like to know when there are guns in a household. For example, when responding to a report of domestic violence, police would probably prefer to go to a house without guns, says Hemenway.

Here is an audio clip from my interview with Dr David Hemenway, in which he discusses several topics including the effect of private gun ownership on the effectiveness of a police force.

Hemenway also says that guns beget more guns. People may keep guns for self defense, but if there are fewer guns, there is less need for self defense. “There is some evidence that when some people are armed, it increases the likelihood that if you are a criminal you want to be armed, or if you are a gang member you want to be armed,” he says. He points out that the reason a lot of inner city kids carry guns is that they are afraid because others have guns.

Arming individuals could also threaten Americans’ right to free speech, the power of which is predicated on non-violence. For example, the power of the Occupy Wall Street Movement rested on the fact that the protesters were unarmed. What would have happened if the protestors in Zuccotti Park had guns? Chaos.

“I think that the evidence is overwhelming that arming average people tends to increase the overall lethal violence in society,” says Hemenway. “The evidence is very strong that where there are more guns and weaker laws, there is more homicide in the U.S. The same as in households. Where there are more guns there’s more homicides in households. All other things being equal.”

Gun Safety: A Public Health Perspective

The recent outbreak of mass shootings, including one that occurred on October 21 at a junior high school in Sparks, Nevada, has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun ownership and Americans’ right to bear arms. How can incidents such as the recent one in Nevada, and the shooting that happened last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., be prevented in a country where the right to own a gun is constitutionally guaranteed?

The first step is addressing gun safety from a public health standpoint, using a multi-pronged approach, similar to that used to reduce the number of car accident fatalities, said Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Such an approach involves making guns safer and educating gun owners and establishing strict licensing standards and conducting thorough background checks. Public awareness campaigns about gun safety and more careful consideration of how gun violence is portrayed in popular media such as video games, movies and TV are also necessary.

A multifaceted approach is required because neither guns nor humans exist in a vacuum. A relationship exists between a human and a gun, much the way it exists between a human and a car, said Don Ihde, distinguished professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. Ihde explained that humans plus technology, and the range of interactions that can occur between them, determine what patterns of behavior will occur.

Safer guns

Cars now come with standard safety features such as seat belts, air bags, and collapsible fenders. In the same way, said Mozaffarian, guns can be made safer. For example, guns can have individualized gun locks so that only the owner can use it.

Ihde said that a cowboy mentality exists in this country: “You need it ready in case there is an intruder!” But the statistics show that the likelihood of accidentally being shot and killed in a home with guns is much higher than in one without, or with the guns locked.

The ownership of high-caliber, automatic weapons should also be restricted. Ihde said that people may claim they need assault rifles in case the government comes after them; if the government does come after them, however, it will use weapons that will overwhelm anything that a private citizen would own.

Educating owners

Driver education and the passing of both written exams and road tests are required to be able to drive a car. That is not necessarily the case for a gun. Gun safety land licensing laws vary by state, and federal laws are weak. These regulations are listed according to state by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.

It is remarkably easy to acquire a weapon; for example, Instagram has developed into a thriving market for the sale of firearms. In addition, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, guns can be sold to unlicensed people provided that they live in the same state as the seller.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that he and his colleagues have asked inner city kids in surveys how easy it is to get a gun, and most of them say its pretty easy. He also mentioned that most said they want to live in a world where its impossible for teens like them to have access to guns.

Safety education for gun owners and extensive background checks for prospective buyers are important, said Mozaffarian. However, in April, the U.S. Senate struck down S. 649 , which lobbied for limits on the sale of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines and more stringent background checks on potential gun owners. The National Rifle Association, which did not respond to several requests for comment, vowed in a press release to protect the rights of Americans to bear arms “for self defense and other legitimate purposes” when those rights are threatened.

Raising awareness

The efforts of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have stigmatized driving drunk and being charged with a DUI. It is now considered uncool to drive drunk, and people designate drivers for nights out. In addition, a recent radio campaign featuring celebrities urges motorists not to text while driving: “It Can Wait.”

Similar efforts need to happen for gun safety, said Mozaffarian. Such efforts could include running educational programs in schools about gun safety, and having celebrities speak out against gun violence. Police could visit schools and gun shows. In the same way it is uncool to drive drunk, it should be uncool to go to a house where there is an unlocked gun.

Cultural shift

Violence, including gun violence, is glorified in TV, movies, and video games in the U.S. Research has shown that violent media is not good for kids, because It tends to make them more aggressive, said Hemenway, who is also the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Hemenway continued by saying that all first world countries face the issue of how violence is portrayed in the popular media, but what makes the U.S. different from other countries is that it has such a huge homicide problem because of its guns.

Ihde said that although he doubts that the violence portrayed in video games, movies, and TV is very influential, it is part of a broader culture in this country that runs very deep. “We have a deeply rooted notion in our culture that we do not like police controls or things of that sort,” he said.

A safer country?

And do guns necessarily make the country safer? Or, to rephrase a popular quote from the late author Robert Heinlein, is an armed society necessarily a polite society?

The answer appears to be no. Privately owned guns make the police force less effective.  “I think gun carrying can make it harder for inner city police,” Hemenway said. He went on to say that police would like to know when there are guns in a household, particularly in situations involving intimate partner violence. “I think that they would much prefer where there is domestic violence, that they go to a house without guns.” he said.

Guns beget more guns. People may keep guns for self defense, but if there are fewer guns, there is less of a need for self defense. “I think that there is some evidence that when some people are armed, it increases the likelihood that if you are a criminal you want to be armed, or if you are a gang member you want to be armed,” said Hemenway. He pointed out that the reason a lot of inner city kids carry guns is that they are afraid because others have guns.

Arming individuals could also threaten Americans’ right to free speech, the power of which is predicated on non-violence. For example, the power of the Occupy Wall Street Movement rested on the fact that the protesters were unarmed. What would have happened if the protestors in Zuccotti Park had guns? Chaos.

“I think that the evidence is overwhelming that arming average people tends to increase the overall lethal violence in society,” said Hemenway. “The evidence is very strong that where there are more guns and weaker laws, there is more homicide in the U.S. The same as in households. Where there are more guns there’s more homicides in households. All other things being equal.”

Here is an audio clip from my interview with Dr David Hemenway:

The Real Meaning of Jersey Strong

Greetings from a natural disaster area.

For the last week or so, Hoboken living has taken on a surreal quality. (Try scooping cat poop by flashlight…fun!). It is heartbreaking to see the curbside piles of waterlogged stuff that line every street. It is also nerve wracking to worry about running out of gas, cash, and flashlight batteries.

The smell of burning oil and carbon monoxide from generators is indescribable. And that’s before you get a whiff of raw sewage.

The week of October 30 was supposed to mean cute kids in Halloween costumes and deciding whether to go vote dressed as a Binder Full of Women or Unemployed Big Bird. Instead, we have FEMA forms, insurance claims, and interminable gas lines. Throughout all of this, I take comfort in how our community has banded together to help one another.

Visiting Hours

Today, I went to Hoboken City Hall, and was directed to the municipal courtroom. The line of volunteers was almost out the door. (Medical personnel and Spanish speakers were in particular demand.)

I went with 3 other people on a “fact-finding mission” to a large apartment building, one of many in Hoboken that was still without power. We were given a list of people who may need help, and told to knock on their doors and check on them. If the people didn’t answer, we were to knock on their neighbor’s door, and ask if their neighbor had seen them.

The people were relieved to see us. One woman had Alzheimer’s disease. She mentioned her brother who lived one floor up, but could not tell us his name or his apartment number. Another older gentleman needed someone to come and give him his weekly injection of a drug that required refrigeration. The office of the home healthcare service that does this was relocated due to flooding. He usually gets his injection on Thursday, but the service was unable to keep this week’s appointment; it was now Saturday.

We let the residents know where they could get prescriptions filled, obtain ice, and recharge their phones. If they were unable to do these things for themselves, we were to make note of it and tell the workers at City Hall, so that they could send help.

Food Trucks and Taking Charge

Up and down Washington Street, Hoboken’s main drag, a few people were handing out free food (tuna sandwiches and water), some of which was hot (Mexican chicken and rice). Food trucks and a hot dog cart were also open for business. On the next street over, anyone with power put out power strips and a few chairs, so that people could charge their phones, tablets, and laptops. Some even had coffee.

Facebook friends are posting status updates and making their homes (along with showers, hot food, and adult beverages) available to those who are still without.

To me, scenes like this say…We are resilient, we stick together and help each other out… we are Jersey Strong!

p.s. View my Hurricane Sandy photo album on Facebook.

Lancôme Promotion Benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Lancôme has teamed up with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for its third annual Génifique Day (formerly known as Genes Day). On Friday, October 19, 2012, $7 from each in-store or online sale of Génifique Eye-Light Pearl, Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate, and certain Génifique gift sets will be donated to the organization.

“We began the partnership after recognizing that we shared two common values: research and innovation,” Stacy Mackler, vice president of public relations and communications at Lancôme, told me in an e-mail. She went on to say that in 2010 the partnership with St. Jude began to celebrate the beauty of giving back.

“We share [the hospital’s] commitment to groundbreaking research and, upon visiting the hospital and seeing first-hand the amazing work [that they do] and their truly optimistic story, we made the commitment to support this worthy cause for years to come,” said Mackler.

After a decade of research, Génifique was launched in 2009, Génifique Day spokesperson Mickey Williams told me. The skin care line is designed to brighten skin, improve the appearance of fine lines, and minimize pores. Williams, a makeup artist and stylist, mentioned that both men and women use the line.

You can spread the word about Génifique Day among your Facebook friends and Twitter followers via an app that lets you create and share virtual photo booth photo strips, noting the occasion when you feel your best. The app can be accessed on Lancôme’s Facebook page. You also can tweet about Génifique Day using the hash tag #GénifiqueDay.

Feeling Good by Doing Good

The great feeling that comes with giving back is integral to the Génifique Day campaign. “I think everyone wants to figure out how to look and feel their best,” said Williams. She said that looking your best, and feeling confident about it, has a lot to do with being comfortable with the look that you create, whether it be a smoky eye or a red lip. “Once you have confidence in your makeup application, it helps a lot,” she said.

She went on to say, “Many people come to me and say, ‘People tell me that I am not supposed to use this product this way’, or ‘I bought this product, and I am scared of it.'” According to Williams, it all boils down to confidence in how you feel.

Rules about makeup no longer exist, said Williams. For example, if you want to wear a dark lip with a smoky eye during the day, and that makes you feel confident, go for it!

Avril Lavigne Signature Look Inspires Makeup at Abbey Dawn Show

OK. So Daily Glow did not publish this, but I DID get to talk with my buddy, James Vincent. James was the key artist for the Abbey Dawn show at New York Fashion Week. He is always a great interview and a ton of fun. I love talking with him, so I wanted to post the end result of our conversation.

In case you do not know, Abbey Dawn is Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne’s clothing line. Abbey Dawn is the nickname Avril’s dad gave her when she was growing up.

“I have a long history with rock n’ roll, so [a rocker-designed clothing line] was a good fit,” James told me. He went on to day that his clients include Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine and Joan Jett. “I have a big tie-in to the music industry, so I am really excited to be the key for Abbey Dawn,” he said.

This show used makeup from Inglot Cosmetics. I have never used Inglot, but it is supposed to be a nice brand, and a lot of makeup pros swear by it. On the brand’s website, the colors look really beautiful. They actually have a store in Garden State Plaza; if you are brave enough to try and park there, your reward is pretty Inglot makeup!

The Look at Abbey Dawn

According to James, Lavigne’s signature black smokey eye is the inspiration for the look he created for the show. He kept foundation sheer and simple with Inglot Cream Foundation and concealer as needed. He used eyeshadow from the Inglot Freedom System Palette and Inglot Cream Liner and black pencil.

James kept the lashes lush, using 2 sets of Inglot faux lashes 73s, layered over Inglot False Lash Effect mascara. Lavigne’s signature look also includes a bold, red lip, so James used Inglot Lipstick 230, which he pressed softly into the lips for the desired effect. A similar shade from Inglot’s AMC Blush collection was dusted on the apple of the cheek.

Pairing a smokey eye with a pop of color on the lip keeps the look modern and very rock n’roll, but still very wearable for most women, James said. He described the look as flirty and fun. “It captures the counter-culture aspect of rock and its free-spiritedness, but not the hardness.”

Rules? What Rules?

For spring, we are not following any one set way of doing anything, said James. Makeup is much more individual. Unlike past seasons, we are pairing spring’s traditional bright flush of color on the lip or pop of color on the apple of the cheek with a smoky eye.

Lashes are also key, so feel free to pile on lots of mascara and experiment with faux lashes. As James put it, “You make the look your own, instead of following trends that are set by the magazines.”

Beauty Editors Day Raises Funds for Look Good, Feel Better

Look Good, Feel Better, an initiative of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, recently hosted its first annual Beauty Editors Day at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. This fun event was a fundraiser for the program, which teaches beauty techniques to women to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.

For the event, customers could book 20-minute appointments with beauty editors from 31 publications, including Vogue, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Elle, and InStyle, at a cost of $30 per appointment. Editors were paired with such high-end brands as NARS, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, Guerlain, Clinique, Burberry, and SK-II. Customers could chat with the editors about makeup and skin care, and then receive a makeover and a goody bag.

Executive director of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, Louanne Roark (pictured here), told me at the event that the foundation has run this event at Selfridge’s department store in the U.K. for the past 6 years. “It has been a wonderful model in the U.K., and the timing was right, so we have brought that model here,” she said.

The foundation has had a wonderful response to the New York City event, said Roark. “We had room for about 580 appointments, and were almost booked before the event started. We are still taking appointments at the event itself!”

Look Good, Feel Better is a joint effort of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association/National Cosmetology Association. Roark said that the program puts on about 16,000 free workshops nationwide at about 2,800 facilities such as hospitals and community centers. Look Good, Feel Better also offers programs for teens and programs in Spanish.

Roark said that she is very excited about the success of the first U.S. Beauty Editors Day, and that the upcoming 25th anniversary of Look Good, Feel Better in 2014 offers exciting opportunities for events like it. She also left open the possibility of similar events in other U.S. cities in the future, and the possibility that Beauty Editors Day in New York City will become an annual event.

Ricky Gervais Joins HSUS “Be Cruelty-Free” Campaign

ImageComedian Ricky Gervais is taking aim at cosmetics companies who test on animals for the sake of profits, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced recently in a press release. Gervais is a supporter of the HSUS and Humane Society International’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign.

“Like me, most people will be shocked to learn that testing cosmetics on animals is often still a legal requirement in China,” Gervais said in a statement. “It makes me really angry that this is still going on, and it makes me particularly angry that some previously cruelty-free companies are abandoning their principles and returning to animal testing in order to profit from the Chinese market.”

Gervais goes on to say that China’s cosmetics market is worth billions of dollars. “[China] remains one of the few countries in the world to insist on animal testing, so companies manufacturing there have made the very clear choice to test lipsticks and shampoo on animals to increase their profit margins,” he said.

Chinese Takeout

Gervais applauds Urban Decay for its recent decision not to start selling its products in China, following pleas from consumers and animal welfare groups. “Ethical principles shouldn’t be up for sale,” he says. “In deciding against selling in China, Urban Decay has sent a very powerful message to the rest of the industry—you don’t have to sell your soul in order to be a globally successful cosmetics brand.”

Urban Decay’s decision to forgo the Chinese market came just before People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gave hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems it’s Courage in Commerce Award for also making the decision to leave China.

John Paul Mitchell CEO Paul Mitchell and cofounder John Paul DeJoria put sales in China on hold last year, and have now told PETA that the company will remain committed to its cruelty-free policy and not sell products there. Paul Mitchell products have never been tested on animals.

Says DeJoria in a statement issued by the company, “Since Paul Mitchell was founded in 1980, we have been cruelty-free. We do not conduct or condone animal testing on our products, and we will not attempt to market our products in China until alternatives to animal testing methods have been accepted by the government.”

PETA also gave Urban Decay a Courage in Commerce Award after it decided not to sell cosmetics in China.

New Testing Methods

A Europe-wide ban on selling animal-tested cosmetics that takes effect in 2013 has sparked Chinese regulators’ interest in non-animal-based testing methods. Gervais says that progress is being made with getting testing methods that do not use animals accepted in China. “But it’s no coincidence that this new energy towards alternatives has happened under the spotlight of consumer criticism. Compassionate consumers have a powerful voice and we can speak up for animals in labs who cannot be heard,” he says.

You can sign the Be Cruelty-Free pledge and visit leapingbunny.org to download the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics global guide to cruelty-free products.