Gun Violence Prevention is a Public Health Issue

Our journey with health begins with our roots – the places where we live, work, learn and play. Our roots, while complex and unique, are deeply connected to our environments. The work of public health lies here – in improving the environments where health begins and addressing the factors that threaten our communities’ abilities to grow and thrive. To do this, public health must address the conditions that keep communities from meeting their basic human needs, among which include a need for safety.

The reality is we live in a nation whose safety is plagued by a gun violence epidemic.

It is an epidemic experienced in homes and neighborhoods across America; in kindergarten classrooms, elementary schools, high schools and universities; in movie theatres, gay nightclubs, bars and music festivals; at spas and grocery stores. The places where we live, work, learn and play.

In the last week alone our nation has suffered two mass shootings that left eight people dead, six of whom were of Asian descent, in Atlanta, Georgia and 10 people killed at a King Soopers right here in Colorado. The Atlanta spa shootings add to the list of surging crimes against Asian Americans which have spiked 145% between 2019 and 2020.

The tragedy inflicted by gun violence is not isolated to mass shootings.

60% of all gun deaths in America are suicides and here in Colorado, the firearm suicide rate exceeds the national average with a rate of 76%. When we look at where firearm suicides occur, nationally we find that the rate of firearm suicide in rural communities is more than double the rate in urban communities. In Colorado, we see this trend continue with rural communities leading in firearm-involved suicide rates.

When we look at race and gun violence in America, we see an epidemic that is experienced disproportionately by Black Americans, who are two times more likely than white people to die by guns and 10 times more likely than white people to die by gun homicide, nationally. Here in Colorado, gun violence among Denver youth increased in 2019 and 2020, and of those youth who were victims of crime involving guns, Black and Latinos continue to be disproportionately impacted.

If the role of public health is to protect and improve the environments where our health begins, we have to talk about gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, who it is affecting and what our plans are for prevention.

As such, Trailhead unequivocally recognizes gun violence as a public health issue.

In the coming weeks and months ahead, we will be re-convening local public health authorities, community organizations and leaders in gun violence prevention to discuss the path forward for addressing gun violence prevention.

In the meantime, we invite you to join us in our call to action by:

1. Declare gun violence prevention a public health issue

2. Tell your U.S. Senator to take action on background checks

3. Demand a ban on assault weapons

4. Support organizations leading in gun violence prevention

This post originated from our March newsletter. You can stay up to date on news from Trailhead and our partners by becoming a subscriber through the button below.

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