Surgeon General Declares U.S. Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis

Murthy calls on the U.S. to ban automatic rifles, introduce universal background checks, and increase gun violence research.
Published: June 25, 2024

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory Tuesday declaring gun violence a public health crisis that will take the “collective commitment of the nation” to stop.

Citing the increasing number of injuries and deaths involving firearms in the country, Murthy said gun violence continues to have “profound consequences” on survivors, communities, and mental health, CNN reports.

“People are scared in many communities I visit around the country to do normal things like go to school or the grocery store or work and they’re worried about the risk to their life,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBS Mornings.

To drive down gun deaths, Murthy calls on the U.S. to ban automatic rifles, introduce universal background checks for buying guns, pass laws that restrict gun use in public spaces, increase gun violence research, promote gun safety education during doctors visits, and penalize people who don’t properly store their weapons, according to CBS News.

“The good news is there’s a lot we can do,” Murthy said. “There are, for example, community violence intervention programs that we can invest in. There are safe storage education programs that we can expand. There are firearm risk reduction strategies like background checks and other measures that would seek to create time and space between firearms and individuals who would seek to harm themselves and others.”

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48,000 Americans Killed by Guns in 2022

Murthy said there is “broad agreement” that gun violence is a problem. More than 48,000 Americans died from gun injuries in 2022, according to provisional data. That number included homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths. On average, gun homicides killed more than 53 people per day in the U.S. in 2022.

While mass shootings are still rare, making up about 1% of gun deaths, the number of mass shooting incidents has been rising, the advisory says. A new FBI report released Monday showed active shooters violently targeted members of the public across the U.S. at a rate that was 89% higher from 2019 to 2023 than in the previous five-year period. Last year, 139 people were injured by active shooters and 105 were killed — the highest level in recent years.

Related Article: Weapons Detection Survey Finds Campuses Are Turning to Technology to Stop Gun Violence

Firearms are also the leading cause of death in the United States for children aged 0-19 years, with more than 4,700 pediatric gun-related deaths reported in 2021. According to a Dec. 2023 report from the CDC, more than half of unintentional firearm injury deaths among children and adolescents occurred at home. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found up to 43% of U.S. households store their guns loaded and half of those households do not store them in locked containers.

Gun violence in K-12 schools also skyrocketed to 256 incidents in 2021 and has increased every year since. In 2023, there were 346 recorded incidents, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. So far in 2024, as of this article’s writing, there have been 172 incidents of gun violence on K-12 school campuses with 126 victims

“It is now time for us to take this issue out of the realm of politics and put it in the realm of public health, the way we did with smoking more than a half-century ago,” Murthy told the AP. “My hope is that if we understand this as a kid’s issue that we will raise it on the priority list, that we will see it not as a political issue but as a public health issue that should concern all of us.”

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