U.S. Surgeon General emphasizes the seriousness of gun violence: ‘It’s a kids’ issue’


In a new advisory report, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is emphasizing the seriousness of gun violence in the United States, calling it a “public health crisis” and a “kids’ issue.” The 32-page report calls for several strategies to help reduce injuries and deaths at the hands of firearms, of which there are an estimated 500 million in circulation, according to experts.

Dr. Murthy—who has long been outspoken against organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA)—advocates for a multipronged approach to curb gun violence, similar to tobacco use and motor vehicle deaths, which have both dropped significantly thanks to prevention strategies and policies, public health campaigns and culture shifts.

With firearms, he advises for multiple potential measures, including an increase in funding for firearm violence prevention research, safe storage laws, universal background checks, “red flag” laws, an assault weapons ban and encouraging health care workers to discuss safe firearm storage with patients during routine medical visits. Extreme risk laws (aka “red flag” laws) would permit loved ones or law enforcement to petition the courts if they felt someone was in crisis, allowing for a temporary pause on gun sales. According to Everytown, 21 states currently have these laws in place.

In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Murthy noted that the politicization of guns diminishes the fact that it’s a public health crisis. “I’ve long believed this is a public health issue,” he said. “This issue has been politicized; has been polarized over time. But I think when we understand that this is a public health issue, we have the opportunity to take it out of the realm of politics and put it into the realm of public health.”

In the U.S., gun violence is the leading cause of death in children, and has been for nearly a decade. American children are nearly six times as likely to die at the hands of a firearm than Canadian children, nearly 23 times as likely as Australian children, and nearly 73 times as likely as children from the United Kingdom, according to Murthy’s report. Between mass shootings in schools and other public places and the risk of death by way of unintentional gunshot wounds, Dr. Murthy said, “We have to look at this now for what it is, which is a kids’ issue.”

Given that two-thirds of firearms are stored loaded and unlocked, it’s abundantly clear that children and teens are no safer at school than they are at home, if parents and neighbors are irresponsible with their weapons.

Reaching parents and caregivers is the first step, as Dr. Murthy told the NYT. “There’s a significant portion of homes in America which have unlocked, loaded weapons—in other words, weapons that are not stored safely and hence present a risk not only to kids but to others in the home,” he said. “And that is a place where we can make a difference.”

It certainly seems like an overhaul in education, policy, and culture is the only path forward, and it’s so long overdue in a country where children’s safety is so woefully undervalued. Lawmakers and gun advocates simply must do better.





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