Today, I want to talk a little bit about gun violence. I am not a public health expert and I am not going to get political—I just want to talk about what we know and offer hope that things can get better.
Let’s start with the facts. Every year, more than 45,000 people in the US die as a result of gun violence and many, many more suffer non-fatal gun injuries. Gun violence affects people of all ages and backgrounds, but has a disproportionate impact on young adults, men, and those who self-identify as racial and ethnic minorities. Guns are generally the weapon of choice for both suicide and homicide in the US, particularly for the young, and as we saw tragically last month, they are the weapons most commonly used for mass killings. These are just the sad facts.
When we allow this conversation to become political, we lose track of these facts and fail to approach these complex problems like the public health problem that they are. We have a lot of experience with public health approaches to solving problems right now. The COVID pandemic has taught us about risk mitigation and layered strategies. We have learned that there is rarely a single or only solution. Instead, we need to approach these challenges with multiple strategies, each addressing part of the problem and studying the impacts of these potential solutions. As we also saw with COVID, each community will have different appetites for each of the potential solutions. From my perspective, that’s okay too. What’s not okay is doing nothing.
So what can be done? We hear a lot about gun laws, and we have evidence of impact in Connecticut. Community programs aimed at reducing violence, educating people about gun safety, and providing community support can also work. Importantly, we need to study various interventions in different environments to see what works where and with whom. In the not so distant past, people thought we couldn’t reduce car accident fatalities or smoking-related deaths, but a combination of policy, education, and safety measures (seat belts, warning labels) have done just that.
I hope we as a society will determine that the current state is unacceptable and begin the hard process of making iterative change. My thoughts and prayers are with the 19 children and 2 teachers who lost their lives in Uvalde, the 4 lost in Tulsa, the 12 killed and at least 38 injured this past weekend in Chattanooga, Philadelphia and around the country, and the many more who have been lost through gun violence this year.