U.S. Surgeon General Declares Firearm Violence in America a Public Health Crisis

July 5, 2024

On June 25, 2024, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released the Surgeon General's Advisory on Firearm Violence, declaring firearm violence in America a public health crisis.

The new advisory, the first publication from the Office of the Surgeon General dedicated to firearm violence and its consequences for the health and well-being of the American public, details the impact of gun violence beyond death and injury, describing the layers of cascading harm for youth, families, communities, and other populations.

Surgeon General Murthy was quoted in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) news release saying, "Firearm violence is an urgent public health crisis that has led to loss of life, unimaginable pain, and profound grief for far too many Americans . . . We don't have to continue down this path, and we don't have to subject our children to the ongoing horror of firearm violence in America. All Americans deserve to live their lives free from firearm violence, as well as from the fear and devastation that it brings. It will take the collective commitment of our nation to turn the tide on firearm violence."

As reported in the advisory, 54% of U.S. adults or their family members have experienced firearm-related incidents, and nearly six in 10 adults worry "sometimes," "almost every day," or "every day" about loved ones being victims of firearm violence. Additionally, as reported in the advisory, in 2020, firearm-related injury surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death among U.S. children and adolescents.

The advisory outlines an evidence-informed public health approach to addressing the crisis of firearm violence, involving:

  • Critical research investments, such as:
  • Improving data sources and data collection
  • Examining short-term and long-term outcomes of firearm violence
  • Conducting implementation research to improve effectiveness of prevention strategies
  • Community risk reduction and education prevention strategies, such as:
  • Implementing community violence interventions
  • Incorporating organizational violence prevention and emergency preparedness elements into safety program
  • Encouraging health systems to facilitate education on safe and secure storage
  • Firearm risk reduction strategies, such as:
  • Requiring safe and secure firearm storage, including child access prevention laws
  • Implementing universal background checks and expanding purchaser licensing laws
  • Banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines for civilian use
  • Treating firearms like other consumer products, including requiring safety testing or safety features
  • Implementing effective firearm removal policies when individuals are a danger to themselves or others
  • Creating safer conditions in public places related to firearm use and carry
  • Mental health action and support, such as:
  • Increasing access to affordable, high-quality mental health care and substance use treatment
  • Building on investments to enhance safety measures and evidence-based violence prevention efforts in learning settings

In an article published on beckershospitalreview.com, Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) President and CEO Robert C. Garrett and Aakash Shah, MD, Medical Director at Project HEAL and Chief of Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Jersey Shore Medical Center, highlighted that "At Hackensack Meridian Health, we agree with Dr. Murthy; we must address gun violence as a public health problem, not a political one."

Click here to access the advisory itself, and click here to access the relevant HHS news release.

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