Time and again, we are heartbroken by the news of another mass shooting. Part of our healing must be the conviction that we will do everything in our power to keep these tragedies from happening in a nation that continues to face a pandemic of gun violence. It’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that we must work to prevent, but also the daily death-by-guns that claims more than 30,000 lives every year.
We know that these deaths are a predictable outcome of our country’s lack of political will to make a change and an under investment in prevention approaches that work. Through a public health approach that focuses on drawing from evidence and addressing the factors that increase or decrease the risk of gun violence, particularly in communities that are disproportionately impacted, we can save lives.
Each time a major tragedy occurs, the discourse tends to focus on addressing a specific venue. In the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, there is an understandable focus on school safety. We strongly support broad engagement of community members, including young people and other survivors of gun violence, policymakers, and others, in insisting that schools be safe. We must also insist on that same level of safety for our places of worship, shopping malls, movie theaters, concert venues, nightclubs, workplaces, neighborhoods, and homes.
We are listening to young people from all races, classes, and sexualities, in Florida, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and throughout the country, who are unifying to speak truth to power. We have renewed hope that, together, we can prevent gun violence— not just in the case of mass shootings but also in the case of domestic violence, suicide, community violence, and violence involving law enforcement. We first developed this list after the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. The public health approach has evolved since then, and we have now updated it, including more attention to addressing multiple forms of gun violence.
The recommendations below begin with attention to reducing immediate risks related to guns, broaden to address the underlying contributors to gun violence, and then address the prevention infrastructure necessary to ensure effectiveness. We also include recommendations related to new frontiers for research and practice, to ensure that we continue to learn, innovate, and increase our impact over time. The set of recommendations illustrate that one program or policy alone is not going to significantly reduce gun violence, but rather, through comprehensive strategies, we can achieve safety in our homes, schools, and communities.
Gun safety: Reduce the imminent risk of lethality through sensible gun laws and a culture of safety.
1. Sensible gun laws: Reduce easy access to dangerous weapons.
2. Establish a culture of gun safety.
- Reduce firearm access to youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
- Hold the gun industry accountable and ensure there is adequate oversight over the marketing and sales of guns and ammunition.
- Engage responsible gun dealers and owners in solutions.
- Insist on mandatory training and licensing for owners.
- Require safe and secure gun storage.
Underlying contributors to gun violence: systematically reduce risks and increase resilience in individuals, families, and communities.
3. Public health solutions: Recognize gun violence as a critical and preventable public health problem.
4. Comprehensive solutions: Support community planning and implementation of comprehensive community safety plans that include prevention and intervention.
5. Trauma, connection, and services: Expand access to high quality, culturally competent, coordinated, social, emotional, and mental health supports and address the impact of trauma.
Prevention Infrastructure: ensure effectiveness and sustainability of efforts
6. Support gun violence research: Ensure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others have the resources to study this issue and provide science-based guidance.
7. Health system: Establish a comprehensive health system in which violence prevention is a health system responsibility and imperative.