search
Sections List
American Journal News

U.S. surgeon general declares gun violence ‘a public health crisis’

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared firearm violence a public health crisis, as gun deaths and injuries punctuate daily life in America.

By Rachana Pradhan and Fred Clasen-Kelly - June 25, 2024
Share
Vivek Murthy

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared firearm violence a public health crisis, as gun deaths and injuries punctuate daily life in America.

On nearly every day of 2024 so far, a burst of gunfire has hit at least four people somewhere in the country. Some days, communities have endured four or five such shootings.

The nation’s top doctor called on policymakers to consider gun safety measures such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and universal background checks for all firearm purchases. His advisory also urges a “significant increase” in funding for research on gun injuries and deaths, as well as greater access to mental health care and trauma-informed resources for people who have experienced firearm violence.

In 2022, more than 48,000 people were killed by guns in the U.S., or about 132 people a day, and suicides accounted for more than half of those deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 200-plus Americans seek emergency care for firearm injuries each day, according to estimates from Johns Hopkins University research. No federal database records nonfatal gun injuries.

The Office of the Surgeon General does not set or carry out gun policy, but historically its reports and warnings have nudged policymakers and lawmakers to act.

Murthy, a physician, told KFF Health News he hoped to convey the broader toll of gun violence on the nation and the need for an urgent public health response. He cited soaring gun deaths among children and teens and noted that “the mental health toll of firearm violence is far more profound and pervasive than many of us recognize.”

“Every day that passes we lose more kids to gun violence,” Murthy said, “the more children who are witnessing episodes of gun violence, the more children who are shot and survive that are dealing with a lifetime of physical and mental health impacts.”

Firearm-related homicides over the past decade and suicides over the past two decades have driven the sharp rise in gun deaths, the advisory says.

Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens, with higher death rates among Black and Hispanic youths. Researchers from Boston University found that during the height of the covid pandemic, Black children were 100 times as likely as white children to experience gun injuries. Hispanic and Asian children also saw major increases in firearm assault injuries during that time, that study showed.

Joseph Sakran, executive vice chair of surgery at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and chief medical officer for Brady United Against Gun Violence, said the surgeon general’s declaration is a “historic moment that sounds the alarm for all Americans.”

But Sakran added: “It cannot stop here. We have to use this as another step in the right direction. No one wants to see more children gunned down.”

Murthy has long said gun violence should be framed as a health issue. He argued that the approach has been successful in combating significant societal problems, citing tobacco control efforts that took hold following the then-surgeon general’s landmark 1964 report concluding that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer and other diseases.

“We saved so many lives, and that’s what we can do here, too,” Murthy said.

Murthy’s move is one of several recent Biden administration actions designed to combat gun violence, as most gun-related measures remain political nonstarters in Congress. Federal officials have allowed states to use Medicaid dollars to pay for gun violence prevention, and the White House has called on hospital executives and doctors to gather more data about gunshot injuries and to routinely counsel patients about the safe use of firearms.

While available data points to tragic outcomes across American communities, government officials and public health researchers have long been stymied by sparse federal funding devoted to gun violence research and the scope of its health effects.

“I’ve been studying gun violence for about 33 years now and there’s still some really basic and fundamental questions I can’t answer,” said Daniel Webster, a gun violence researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

“To really understand gun violence, you need to do more than just look at publicly available surveillance data,” he said. “You need to actually do in-depth studies involving the populations at highest risk for shooting or being shot.”

Brady analysis found that of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S., firearm injuries received the third-lowest amount of federal research funding through the National Institutes of Health for each person who died. The only causes of death that garnered less research funding through NIH were poisonings and falls, according to the analysis.

Sonali Rajan, an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University who researches the effects of gun violence on children, said political leaders and others need to reframe the debate on gun violence from crime to public health.

“We are raising a whole generation of children for whom exposure to gun violence is normal,” Rajan said.

In Michigan, “we had a kid survive the Oxford High School shooting only to go to Michigan State University and see another mass shooting,” she said. “It is unbelievably shameful.”

Serving as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general since 2021, Murthy has, at times, caused political controversy with his views on gun violence.

Over a decade ago, former President Barack Obama nominated Murthy to be the nation’s top doctor. But Murthy’s support for a federal ban on the sale of assault weapons and ammunition and additional restrictions on gun purchases drew the ire of the National Rifle Association, as well as Republicans and some Democrats in Congress. The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Murthy to the job in December 2014, more than a year after his nomination.

Murthy has previously issued advisories on social isolation and loneliness, youth mental health, and the well-being of health workers. He said gun violence comes up in many of his conversations with young people about the mental health challenges they’re facing.

“Fears around gun violence have really pervaded so much of the psyche of America in ways that are very harmful to our mental health and well-being,” Murthy said.

Many other causes of death are treated differently as to understanding the problems and developing solutions, Webster said. But “that’s generally not what we’ve done with gun violence. We’ve oversimplified it and overpoliticized it.”

As Sakran put it: “As we look at firearm injuries, there’s arguably no public issue that’s as urgent.”

This story was originally published by KFF Health News and the Washington State Standard


Read More
On outskirts of RNC, Heritage Foundation touts controversial Project 2025 plan

On outskirts of RNC, Heritage Foundation touts controversial Project 2025 plan

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - July 17, 2024
U.S. Supreme Court overturns ban on bump stocks used in Las Vegas mass shooting

U.S. Supreme Court overturns ban on bump stocks used in Las Vegas mass shooting

By Ariana Figueroa, Pennsylvania Capital Star - June 14, 2024
‘We need something that works’: Activists call for more resources for gun violence prevention

‘We need something that works’: Activists call for more resources for gun violence prevention

By Lucy Valeski, Michigan Advance - June 07, 2024
U.S. House Speaker Johnson says IVF should be protected — just not by Congress

U.S. House Speaker Johnson says IVF should be protected — just not by Congress

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - March 14, 2024
Biden calls for expanded child tax credit, taxes on wealthy in $7.2 trillion budget plan

Biden calls for expanded child tax credit, taxes on wealthy in $7.2 trillion budget plan

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - March 11, 2024
Telehealth abortions on the rise since Dobbs, new report shows

Telehealth abortions on the rise since Dobbs, new report shows

By Sofia Resnick, States Newsroom - February 28, 2024
AJ News
Latest
Republican Tim Sheehy often brags about his business record. His company is in the red.

Republican Tim Sheehy often brags about his business record. His company is in the red.

By - July 22, 2024
Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

By Jesse Valentine - July 09, 2024
New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

By Jesse Valentine - July 08, 2024
GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

By Jesse Valentine - July 03, 2024
Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

By Jesse Valentine - July 02, 2024
Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

By Jesse Valentine - June 24, 2024
Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

By Jesse Valentine - June 11, 2024
Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

By Jesse Valentine - June 10, 2024
Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

By Jesse Valentine - June 06, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

By Jesse Valentine - May 24, 2024
What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

By Chabeli Carrazana and Shefali Luthra - May 22, 2024
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

By Jesse Valentine - May 21, 2024
Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector - May 21, 2024
House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

By Jesse Valentine - May 14, 2024
Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

By Jesse Valentine - May 07, 2024
Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - April 30, 2024
Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

By Jesse Valentine - April 30, 2024
Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - April 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

By Jesse Valentine - April 15, 2024
GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

By Jesse Valentine - March 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

By Jesse Valentine - March 08, 2024
Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

By Jesse Valentine - March 07, 2024
Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

By Jesse Valentine - March 04, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
‘We love Hitler. We love Trump.’: White supremacists march through Howell

‘We love Hitler. We love Trump.’: White supremacists march through Howell

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - July 22, 2024
Attempts to further restrict abortion fail to cross the finish line in Oklahoma

Attempts to further restrict abortion fail to cross the finish line in Oklahoma

By Emma Murphy, Oklahoma Voice - July 22, 2024
Republican Sam Brown can’t stop flip-flopping on abortion rights

Republican Sam Brown can’t stop flip-flopping on abortion rights

By Jesse Valentine - July 22, 2024
Florida Planned Parenthood PAC endorses five in Senate races and 51 in the House

Florida Planned Parenthood PAC endorses five in Senate races and 51 in the House

By Jackie Llanos, Florida Phoenix - July 19, 2024
At Trump’s GOP Convention, there was little to be heard on health care

At Trump’s GOP Convention, there was little to be heard on health care

By Phil Galewitz, KFF Health News - July 19, 2024