Gun Violence Is a Public Health Epidemic

gun violence
gun violence
Courtesy of Mitch Barrie (Flickr CC0)

Gun violence is a public health epidemic that spreads across the United States. As of Jan. 11, 2023, there have been 1,268 deaths caused by gun violence. Of those deaths, 542 were considered either a homicide, murder, or unintentional. The remaining 742 are listed as suicide.

One of the leading causes of premature death in the U.S. involves firearms. Furthermore, over 38,000 individuals lose their lives to gun-related injuries with almost 85,000 people being injured. Advocates, doctors, and organizations like the American Public Health Association (APHA), recognize that there needs to be a public health approach to addressing this growing crisis.

Gun Violence Has Deep Roots

Gun violence is a complex issue that has been deeply rooted in American culture. This is why many believe people must take a public health approach to ensure the communities and families in the nation are safe. Furthermore, there needs to be an emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research and prevention.

APHA’s Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, M.D., stated, “As our nation has this very intense debate over how best to make our communities safer and reduce the carnage that occurs from firearms, we’ve given you some policies that will work and how we can move this nation forward.”

Studies show that different types of violence usually occur together. Places with higher rates of gun violence generally also have higher rates of child abuse, domestic violence, and other types of assault.

Roughly 41,000 US citizens die from gun violence every year. That’s an average of more than 110 gun-related deaths per day.

US Has Weak Laws

The United States has the weakest gun laws in the world. It also has the most guns — 393 million — of any comparable nation. America accounts for only 4% of the world’s population. However, it has 35% of global firearm suicides. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in gun-related homicides than any other people in other high-income countries.

Over the past decade, there have been more than one million people have been shot in America. Additionally, gun violence rates have been rising across the nation.

Gun-related deaths reached the highest level in at least 40 years in 2020. There were 45,222 deaths from gun violence that year alone. Statistics show that gun access triples suicide risk. Furthermore, the majority of suicides (59%) involve a gun.

Disproportionate Communities Hit the Hardest

gun violence
Courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian (Flickr CC0)

Gun violence homicides have disproportionately impacted underserved communities of color in U.S. cities.  About half of all gun homicides occur in just 127 cities across America. These areas comprise less than a quarter of the total United States population.

Black men make up 52% of all gun violence homicide victims. However, they only make up less than 6% of the U.S. population.

Unarmed Black civilians are five times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers than white people, according to statistics. Indigenous men are the next to face the highest risk of police violence. Then it’s Latino men with white males facing police violence the least. Police violence against women follows the same pattern.

Gun Violence Among Domestic Abuse and Children Statistics

Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be murdered when the abusers have access to a gun. In America, women are 21 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than those in other high-income countries.

Statistics in 2020 showed that guns are the leading cause of death for children under 18. That year alone 2,270 youth lost their lives to gun violence.

Three million children are exposed to gun violence each year, resulting in injury, death, and lasting trauma on a yearly basis.

Gun-Related Incidents in Illinois

The state of Illinois saw the second-largest increase in firearm deaths between 2015 to 2020. The state’s rates rose 43.0%. In 2020 the state had 1,745 gun-related deaths and conducted 7,455,065 firearm background checks.

Earlier this month, over 350 doctors across Illinois sent a letter urging legislators to pass the Protect Illinois Communities Act. On Jan. 12, 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law creating a statewide ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The new law took effect immediately after he signed. Just before he signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act, Pritzker raised the memory of the 4th of July parade massacre in Highland Park last year. A horrific crime that left seven people dead and 36 injured and left a 2-year-old boy wandering around parentless. The accused shooter used a semiautomatic weapon he legally purchased.

A Step Towards a New Beginning

“After nearly every mass shooting, we’ve seen efforts to ban dangerous weapons thwarted — and then leaders send their thoughts and prayers, while they throw their hands up — resigning themselves to the idea that gun violence is a sacrifice that Americans must accept,” Pritzker said. “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Pritzker was part of the Protect Illinois Communities Act from the very beginning. He and members of the Illinois General Assembly fought hard to pass gun safety legislation for years. Now the elusive ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines has become a reality.

By Sheena Robertson

Sources:

CBS News: Gov. JB Pritzker signs Illinois assault weapons ban
APHA: Gun Violence
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Gun Violence, a Public Health Epidemic
Gun Violence Archive 2023: Evidence Based Research – since 2013
Illinois.gov: Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Banning Assault Weapons and Sale of High-Capacity Magazines
Giffords Law Center: STATISTICS
The Center Square: Yearly Gun Deaths Are Up in Illinois

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Mitch Barrie‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian

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