CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A U of I professor believes a different approach can be the answer to the country’s gun violence issue. He looks at past problems and past solutions to paint a clearer picture.

Professor Thomas O’Rourke says gun violence in the country has become a public health concern. And treating it like such could be the solution. Through his study, he relates present gun violence deaths to past public health dangers like smoking and car-related deaths.

He says when cigarettes were inexpensive, readily available, and ingrained in the culture 42% of adults smoked. But new laws, education, and a change in public opinion brought that number down to an all-time low of 12% in 2020.

O’Rourke believes this approach should be used toward gun violence.

“The bottom line is they show that over periods of time where you have incremental change supported by public opinion things do change. It may be slow, and it is slow,” said O’Rourke.

He adds changing the language from “gun control” to “gun safety” or even “responsible gun ownership” could ease the knee-jerk reactions felt on both sides.

O’Rourke says he has optimism for the long run, but correctly addressing the issue on the front end is the first step.