U.S. Surgeon General Calls Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis—What Does That Mean?

Public health professionals said Murthy’s report draws awareness to the epidemic of declining gun brutality, which kills tens of thousands of Americans yearly.

The announcement celebrates the first time the Office of the Surgeon General has issued an advisory on gun brutality and “outlines the urgent threat firearm violence poses to the fitness and well-being of our country,” Murthy told in a video cast alongside the information.

The crisis is particularly “devastating” for kids, Murthy counted. Gun-related damages have become the top cause of death for kids and adolescents in the U.S. since 2020; these wounds now kill more kids than cancer, car mishaps, poisonings, and drug overdoses.

“Our children should not have to live in suspicion that they are going to get shot if they go to school,” Murthy stated. “None of us should have to worry that going to the mall, or a concert, or a house of adoration suggests placing our lives at chance, or that we’ll get a call that a valued one in a point of reference has taken their own life with a firearm.”

Murthy’s advisory also emphasized that gun brutality doesn’t involve all demographics equally: Black Americans shared the most elevated speeds of firearm killing across all ages in 2022, per the new information.

However, experts emphasized that gun violence is finally a public health issue that impacts people of all races, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Given the toll it carries on all of our residents, gun violence must be identified as a public health hazard, said Lauren Khazem, PhD, research associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“Gun violence is a public fitness issue because firearm-related casualties resume to rise,” Khazem told Health. In 2021, the digit of gun-related deaths in the U.S. got a nearly three-decade high, the statement said.

Office of the Surgeon General.

Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

Murthy’s new advisory will hopefully allow the public to comprehend how gun violence drops under the umbrella of public fitness, specialists said. Though guns are often examined in terms of legal disputes or Second Amendment rights, it’s essential to think about how guns can influence Americans’ bodily and mental fitness.

The part of public health policymakers and students is to explore methods to stop an issue that is hurting people’s well-being, as defined by Horwitz.

“A public health intervention is not a medical practice,” he described. “[Rather], you’re trying to stop something, and you do that by adjusting something upstream.”

Examination centers such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions—where Horwitz works—can determine what’s causing the gun violence epidemic and examine for interventions that power control it, he added.

Murthy’s advisory was structured likewise: “What I thought was great about this piece is that it lays out what the general health focus is,” stated Horwitz.

Among other industries, Murthy’s statement called for:

  • Legislation that would need guns to be kept safely and out of space for kids
  • Universal background checks and purchaser licensing rules that make it more challenging to purchase firearms
  • Firearm reduction procedures that cover domestic brutality victims
  • Bans on attack weapons
  • More rules on having and using guns in public areas
  • Safety code within the gun manufacturing enterprise

Firstly, the plan would be for these policies to reduce the digit of American lives brought by gun violence—Murthy’s report said that in 2022, over 48,200 people died from guns.

Easing the epidemic of gun violence would also hopefully have a favorable effect on Americans’ mental health.

“The collective trauma and anxiety that Americans are sharing is donating to the mental health challenges that we are meeting today,” Murthy said in the advisory video.

Just over half of U.S. grown-ups said that either they or a household member have undergone a “firearm-related happening.” Almost six in 10 Americans said that they worry about failing a loved one due to gun brutality.

How Health Agencies Can Help Stop the Gun Violence Epidemic

Like other public health issues such as tobacco use and drunk driving happenings, gun violence can be stopped. Many see the case as “unavoidable,” but that’s not the case, Horwitz said.

“[People tell], ‘This is so political, it’s a tie.’ But that is old thinking,” he described. “There are a lot of circumstances where we’re making solid, continued improvement.”

The point that this advisory is arriving from the U.S. Surgeon General is also a reminder that improvement on gun brutality should come, in part, from those who work in healthcare, professionals added. There are several ways to do this, Purva Grover, MD, medical chief of Cleveland Clinic’s Pediatric Emergency Departments, told Health.

Public health students can resume to “gather and diagnose data on gun violence incidents to understand patterns, risk characteristics, and effects on residents, [and] this data can inform evidence-based interventions,” she stated.

For individuals at risk of gun brutality now, neighborhood health centers can also set up service schedules, said Horwitz. These centers deliver aid to make sure individuals stay secure, which could include housing, schedules to assist with substance use, education, and more.

Individual physicians can also take part by educating patients “about the risks associated with firearms, safe hold techniques, and precluding systems,” Grover said. Organizations that train doctors can also assist set them up for victory in this area.

“The healthcare district should collaborate with gun owners to determine ways to safely store guns that make the most importance,” said Khazem. “Even if total reduction of a firearm isn’t an option, just putting one small step between someone and a firearm can mean the distinction between life and dying.”

FACTS:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General has cast a first-of-its-kind advisory notice that gun violence is a “public health problem.”
  • Gun violence is the number one cause of death for kids and adolescents in the U.S., surpassing cancer, car mishaps, and poisonings.
  • Specialists said healthcare employees at all levels should get interested in helping end the gun brutality epidemic.

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