Gun Violence is a Public Health Threat

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has mounted an aggressive campaign in opposition to President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States: Dr. Vivek Murthy. 

The NRA has sited Dr. Murthy’s activism on behalf of gun control as problematic Dr. Murthy believes that gun violence is a major public health issue and will take a comprehensive, community-oriented approach to reduce death and injury from gunfire.  While Murthy’s views and positions on guns are supported by and consistent with the majority of Americans calling for stronger gun safety laws, the NRA does not share the belief that the current gun violence in the U.S. is a public health threat and have criticized Dr. Murthy’s stance that doctors should ask patients about gun ownership and discuss gun safety procedures, that more federal funding should be allocated towards gun violence research, and support for legislative gun violence prevention measures such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Public Health is the science of protecting and improving the health of entire populations, and is tasked with preventing problems from happening or  re-occurring through implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services, regulating health systems and some health professions, and conducting research. In contrast, clinical or medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured.

These facts support the view that guns are a public health issue:

  1. By 2015 Guns Violence is set to surpass car accidents as the number one killer of young people. 
  2. Approximately 88 gun deaths occur each day.
  3. More than 32,000 deaths and 74,000 injuries are due to gun shots each year.
  4. Since 1965, homicide and suicide have consistently been among the top 15 leading causes of death in the U. S. These are two of the top three leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds.
  5. More than 68 percent of all homicides in America are gun-related, and more Americans kill themselves with guns than every other method combined.

The Surgeon General, the nation’s chief doctor, is tasked to educate the public about how to live healthier, safer lives and one of the biggest injury-producing mechanisms in America today are guns.  This is an area that any surgeon general should be involved in.   The surgeon general can help provide the best scientific information available on how to improve health and reduce risks of illness and injury.  Promoting prevention of gun violence and gun safety is one of the ways to do this.  Guns are a consumer product and as such, public health steps should be taken to reduce product-related injury as is done for other products such as automobiles, toys, airplanes.

On the policy side, Senator Ed Markey, (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., have introduced l legislation calling for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive $10 million each year for six years beginning in fiscal year 2015 to fund research on the root causes and costs of gun violence, prevention and firearms safety.

The United Church of Christ has a long history of supporting gun control legislation.  In a 1995 General Synod Resolution, the United Church of Christ went on record in calling for a renewed spiritual reflection to better understand the roots of gun violence in our culture and to consider the resources of our faith in ending such violence.  This resolve continues today as the UCC joins with over 50 denominational and faith organizations in calling for an end to gun violence. 

 Please sign the petition calling for the confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as the next Surgeon General of the United States.

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CONTACT INFO

Ms. Barbara T. Baylor
Policy Advocate for Health and Wholeness Issues
100 Maryland Avenue, NE
Suite 300
Washington, District of Columbia 20002
202-543-1517
baylorb@ucc.org