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US surgeon general declares gun violence a public health crisis

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In an unprecedented move, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on firearm violence, emphasizing the urgent threat posed by gun violence to the health and well-being of the nation. The announcement coincided with the release of statistics by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding gun-related incidents.

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According to the DHHS report, gun violence has far-reaching consequences, affecting not only those physically harmed by firearms but also witnesses, loved ones and communities. Collective trauma and fear surrounding gun violence permeate society, including schools.

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Since 2020, gun-related injuries have become the leading cause of death among American children and adolescents aged 1-19. In 2022 alone, the U.S. witnessed over 48,000 firearm-related deaths — an increase of 8,000 from 2019 and 16,000 from 2010.

Gun homicide rates in 2022 were highest among Black or African American populations, with 27 deaths per 100,000 individuals, compared to 6.2 per 100,000 for all races. Additionally, white individuals aged 45 and older had the highest suicide rate related to firearms (14.8 per 100,000).

The DHHS underscored the disproportionate impact of gun violence on males. Males aged 1-19 were five times more likely than their female counterparts to die from firearm-related injuries (3,926 males vs. 677 females in 2022).

While mass shootings media coverage, they account for only about 1% of all firearm-related deaths. However, their frequency is increasing.

Between 2020 and 2023, the U.S. experienced over 600 mass shooting incidents annually, compared to an average of 400 per year between 2015 and 2018.

“Our children should not live in fear of getting shot at school, nor should any of us fear attending public places like malls, concerts, or houses of worship,” Murthy said. “Addressing firearm violence is a moral imperative.”

A recent survey revealed that 51% of teens worry about shootings at their schools or nearby, while 79% of adults experience stress due to the possibility of mass shootings. Fear even prevents some from going certain places.

Murthy recommends a multifaceted approach to combat gun violence, including community violence prevention programs, risk reduction strategies, improved mental health services and expanded research funding.

“Firearm violence is a public health crisis,” Murthy said. “To protect Americans, especially our children, we must act now.”

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LAUREN TAYLOR: THE US SURGEON GENERAL IS DECLARING GUN VIOLENCE A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.

VIVEK MURTHY / US SURGEON GENERAL: “FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF OUR OFFICE, I AM ISSUING A SURGEON GENERAL’S ADVISORY ON FIREARM VIOLENCE. IT OUTLINES THE URGENT THREAT FIREARM VIOLENCE POSES TO THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF OUR COUNTRY.”

LAUREN TAYLOR:  DR. VIVEK MURTHY MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT TUESDAY AS THE U-S DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES RELEASED NEW STAGGERING STATS ON GUN VIOLENCE.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT – GUN VIOLENCE LEADS TO CASCADING HARM ACROSS ALL OF SOCIETY – NOT ONLY THOSE WHO ARE PHYSICALLY AFFECTED BY GUN VIOLENCE BUT ALSO THOSE WHO WITNESS IT, LOSE A LOVED ONE FROM IT, OR ARE EXPOSED TO IT IN THEIR COMMUNITIES – INCLUDING SCHOOLS. GUN VIOLENCE CREATES COLLECTIVE TRAUMA AND FEAR FOR COMMUNITIES.

SINCE 2020 – GUN-RELATED INJURY HAS BEEN THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AMERICAN KIDS AND ADOLESCENTS – BETWEEN THE AGES OF ONE AND 19.

THE U-S ALSO SAW MORE THAN 48-THOUSAND FIRE-ARM RELATED DEATHS IN 2022 (THE MOST RECENT YEAR WHERE DATA IS AVAILABLE?)- WHICH IS 8-THOUSAND MORE THAN IN 2019 – AND 16-THOUSAND MORE THAN IN 2010.

AND EVEN THOUGH WE SEE MASS SHOOTINGS IN THE NEWS EVERY YEAR – MASS SHOOTING DEATHS ACCOUNT FOR ONLY ABOUT 1% OF ALL FIREARM-RELATED DEATHS.

HOWEVER, MASS SHOOTINGS ARE BECOMING MORE FREQUENT.

BETWEEN 2020 AND 2023 – THE U-S EXPERIENCED MORE THAN 600 MASS SHOOTING INCIDENTS EACH YEAR, COMPARED TO AN AVERAGE OF 400 PER YEAR BETWEEN 2015 AND 2018.

VIVEK MURTHY / US SURGEON GENERAL: “OUR CHILDREN SHOULD NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN FEAR THAT THEY ARE GOING TO GET SHOT IF THEY GO TO SCHOOL. NONE OF US SHOULD HAVE TO WORRY THAT GOING TO THE MALL, OR A CONCERT, OR A 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.”

LAUREN TAYLOR: 51% OF TEENS SAY THEY WORRY ABOUT A SHOOTING HAPPENING AT THEIR SCHOOL OR CLOSE TO HOME, AND 79% OF ADULTS EXPERIENCE STRESS FROM THE POSSIBILITY OF A MASS SHOOTING, WHILE 33% SAY FEAR PREVENTS THEM FROM GOING TO CERTAIN PLACES.

THE SURGEON GENERAL SAYS FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO GUN VIOLENCE ARE COMPLEX – BUT THAT IF WE ALL GET ON BOARD – WE CAN TURN THE TIDE ON GUN VIOLENCE IN OUR COUNTRY.

DR. MURTHY RECOMMENDS COMMUNITIES CREATE VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAMS AND RISK REDUCTION STRATEGIES, IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY GUN VIOLENCE, AND EXPAND RESEARCH FUNDING FOR PREVENTION STRATEGIES.

VIVEK MURTHY / US SURGEON GENERAL: “FIREARM VIOLENCE IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS. OUR FAILURE TO ADDRESS IT IS A MORAL CRISIS. TO PROTECT THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF AMERICANS, ESPECIALLY OUR CHILDREN, WE MUST NOW ACT.”

LAUREN TAYLOR:  FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS, I’M LT.

WE HAVE A LINK TO THE SURGEON GENERAL’S FULL REPORT ON OUR WEBSITE, SAN DOT COM.