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Leading medical experts agree: Gun violence is a public health crisis

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Tuesday issued a historic Surgeon General’s Advisory on Firearm Violence, declaring gun violence is a public health crisis. GIFFORDS, which has advocated for a public health approach to gun violence since its founding in 2013, praised the decision and called for all levels of government to embrace its recommendations. GIFFORDS founder and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hailed the landmark advisory in a US News column.

Leading medical organizations and physicians embraced the Surgeon General’s advisory and agreed that gun violence in America must be addressed as a public health crisis, including:

American Medical Association
“Across the country, physicians everywhere treat patients and families afflicted by firearm violence. We see the physical and emotional harm firsthand, and we dread the too-often conversations with parents, spouses, and even children in which we tell them their loved one did not make it. Firearm violence is indeed a public health crisis in the United States, and the data now show it touches the majority of Americans. We applaud the Office of the Surgeon General for issuing this advisory and for outlining an evidence-based public health approach to addressing firearm violence.” – Bruce A. Scott, MD, President

American Psychological Association
“Addressing gun violence is a pressing public health issue that requires solutions grounded in research, data and the voice of communities. Now we must use this information to advance science-based public policy that saves lives and prevents injury. This advisory puts the data regarding gun violence in America front and center—and the picture is appalling. Firearms are now the leading cause of death among our children and adolescents. And the impact of gun violence reverberates across communities, leading to collective trauma, stress and anxiety.” – Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO

American College of Emergency Physicians
“By raising awareness of this public health crisis, The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Firearm Violence speaks to the gun violence that emergency physicians observe all too often, as well as the repercussions on the communities they serve.” – President Aisha T. Terry, MD, MPH, FACEP

American College of Surgeons
“Firearm violence has been a public health crisis in the United States for many years now, and we are pleased to see that the Surgeon General is addressing it in this Advisory, laying out the stark statistics highlighting the scope of the problem as well as identifying some actionable solutions. The American College of Surgeons has been working on this issue for decades and we stand ready to work with all stakeholders to end this epidemic of violence.” – Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS, ACS Executive Director & CEO

American College of Physicians
“The American College of Physicians has long advocated for a public health approach and common-sense measures to help curb this escalating crisis. We continue to address the problem of firearm injury through public policy and advocacy efforts, publication of related research and through events that examine the impact on clinicians and the public, and collaboration with others to enact change. We commend the Office of the Surgeon General for raising awareness of this growing epidemic.” – Executive Vice President and CEO, Darilyn V. Moyer, MD, MACP; and President Isaac O. Opole, MBChB, MACP

American Public Health Association
“This important advisory will help to educate the public about the devastating toll that gun violence takes on the health of our nation through suicide, violent crime and unintentional shootings. It also includes important recommendations outlining a public health approach to addressing this crisis, including improving research and data collection, implementing community violence reduction programs, requiring safe storage of firearms and keeping firearms out of the wrong hands through the implementation of universal background checks for all firearm purchases and extreme risk protection orders and domestic violence protection orders. In the United States, gun violence is a major public health crisis and a leading cause of preventable premature death. It is particularly stark among children and adolescents, a population for which firearm-related violence is the leading cause of death.” – Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD

Emergency Nurses Association
“Today, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared what emergency nurses know all-too-well: Gun violence is a public health crisis. Murthy’s call to action aligns with ENA’s positions related to, among other things, a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks for firearm purchases and the need for greater firearm safety education. Emergency nurses see firsthand the damage caused by firearms – whether in a mass shooting, urban violence, self-harm or intimate partner violence – and understand deeply the need to find solutions that reduce the frequency and severity of firearm injuries and deaths. Those solutions cannot be reached soon enough. Lives are at stake.” – President Chris Dellinger

Trauma Surgeon Dr. Tchaka B. Shepherd, MD, MBA, FACS 
“In the echo of Surgeon General Murthy’s words, let us unite as healthcare leaders and citizens, guardians of our children’s future. Let our actions against gun violence today shape a tomorrow free of fear, where schools are sanctuaries of learning, not scenes of tragedy, and playgrounds echo with laughter, not bullets. Together, let us forge a path towards a safer, brighter future.”


Before the Biden administration took office, GIFFORDS and the Center for American Progress authored a memo for the incoming Department of Health and Human Services on “​Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency.” Early last year, GIFFORDS published a report on the growing epidemic of gun violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2013, GIFFORDS Law Center and National Physicians Alliance authored a report entitled “Gun Safety & Public Health: Policy Recommendations for a More Secure America.” GIFFORDS Law Center joined eight health professional organizations and the American Bar Association in signing “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action” in 2015. In late 2018, GIFFORDS partnered with 14 leading medical and public health groups in an effort to urge Congress to fund research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address America’s gun violence crisis. 


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