Surgeon general declares firearm violence a public health crisis

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called firearm violence a public health crisis on Tuesday. File Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called firearm violence a public health crisis on Tuesday. File Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

June 25 (UPI) -- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Tuesday declared firearm violence in the United States a public health crisis.

In the first-of-its-kind advisory Murthy outlined the "urgent threat firearm violence poses to the health and well-being of our country through both those killed and injured by firearms and the trauma and fear associated with gun violence.


"As a doctor, I've seen the consequences of firearm violence up close and the lives of the patients that cared for over the years," Murthy said. "These are moms and dads, sons and daughters, all of whom were robbed of their physical and mental health by senseless acts of violence. Unfortunately, the problem has continued to grow."

Murthy cited a national survey that revealed 54% of adults have personally experienced or have a family member who experienced a firearm-related incident. One-fifth of survey respondents said a firearm had threatened them and the same percentage said they have a family member who had died due to gun violence.

Murthy said that gun violence disproportionately affects various communities in the United States, with Black people facing the highest rates of firearm homicides and suicides most impacting veterans, older White people as well as younger American Indian or Alaska Native people.


He said the impact on children was "especially devastating" as firearm violence has become the primary cause of death among children and adolescents, surpassing car crashes and drug overdoses.

Additionally, Murthy said the "collective trauma and fear that Americans are experiencing" is contributing to mental health challenges as nearly 6 in 10 American adults say they worry about a loved one becoming a victim of firearm violence.

"Our children should not have to live in fear that they are going to get shot if they go to school," Murthy said. " None of us should have to worry that going to the mall or concert, or house of worship means putting our lives at risk, or that we'll get a call that a loved one in a moment of crisis has taken their own life with a firearm."

The advisory said the government can respond to the current gun violence crisis in several ways, including warning labels on firearms, reinstating a ban on assault weapons and stronger laws on safe gun storage.

He also called for stronger measures around mental healthcare and school-based services for gun violence victims.

"I want people to know this is a profound public health crisis but it is a solvable public health crisis," Murthy told USAToday. "As a nation, we are not powerless. We can do something about it."


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