BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advances in curtailing gun violence in the United States are far more likely to come from local efforts than Washington, despite it being a hot topic of debate among presidential candidates, according to a panel of public health experts.
U.S. courts and community activists, must be part of the solution to prevent U.S. gun suicides and shootings that far outpace levels in other advanced nations, according to panelists taking part in Preventing Gun Violence: Public Health Perspectives, presented by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with Reuters.
"We're going to hear about gun control probably into mid-summer. But once we get into the general election season, I don't think we're going to hear about it very much at the national stage and that's when you really have to get busy locally," said David King, senior lecturer in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Guns are likely to take a backseat to issues like immigration and homeland security in the November general election.
"I have more hope at the state and local level, where we have citizen activists understanding the community, reaching out and trying to build on those basic laws," King said. "This is not going to change all at once from Washington D.C."
The discussion took place amid reports of an active shooter situation at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. California officials later said there was no evidence of a shooting.
Mike McLively, staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said despite public perceptions that little progress has been made to rein in gun violence, much has been done since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults at a school in Newtown, Ct. in December 2012.
"There have been 125 significant gun safety reforms enacted in 41 different states" including universal background checks for those purchasing firearms and prohibitions on large capacity ammunition magazines, McLively said. "The gun violence prevention movement is finding strategies at the state and local level to be more effective."
Many courts have ruled that such laws do not violate U.S. Constitutional rights to gun ownership.
Panelists called for lifting Congressional bans on the study of gun violence by government agencies.
They also said altering hot-button terminology might help opposing sides carry on a more constructive discussion, suggesting gun policy or gun health instead of gun control.
Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Andrew Hay