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Surgeon General issues landmark advisory declaring gun violence a public health crisis

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D. issued a landmark Surgeon General’s Advisory on Firearm Violence on June 25, declaring firearm violence in America to be a public health crisis. This advisory is the first publication from the Office of the Surgeon General dedicated to this issue, outlining the devastating and far-reaching consequences that firearm violence poses to the health and well-being of the country.

"Gun violence continues to be a pervasive, insidious public health crisis, affecting individuals and communities in profound and devastating ways,” says California Medical Association (CMA) President Tanya W. Spirtos, M.D. “Physicians know firsthand the damage that firearms are causing in our communities, not only as a direct result of gun violence, but the collective trauma of a nation living in fear.”

Over the last decade, the number of people who have died from firearm-related injuries, including suicides, homicides and accidental deaths, has been rising, and firearm violence is now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.

The advisory details the impact of gun violence beyond death and injury, describing the layers of cascading harm across our society. With nearly 6 in 10 U.S. adults worrying “sometimes,” “almost every day,” or “every day,” about a loved one being a victim of firearm violence, the effects of the public health crisis extend well beyond physical health.

CMA has for many years been calling for national action to address the epidemic of gun violence, most recently in 2023 calling on the Surgeon General to issue a report on gun violence epidemic.

“By highlighting the issue of gun violence at the national level as something beyond highly publicized mass shootings, the Surgeon General’s new Advisory on Firearm Violence is a critical step in highlighting the urgency of this issue and the need for a collaborative approach to finding new policy solutions and evidence-based strategies to create meaningful change,” says Dr. Spirtos. “The physicians of California stand ready to work with Surgeon General Murthy and other stakeholders as we begin the long overdue process of mitigating gun violence in our communities.”

The Surgeon General’s Advisory outlines an evidence-informed public health approach to addressing the crisis of firearm violence. This approach involves critical research funding, implementation of prevention strategies, and increased mental health access and support.

“Firearm violence is an urgent public health crisis that has led to loss of life, unimaginable pain, and profound grief for far too many Americans,” said Dr. Murthy. “We don’t have to continue down this path, and we don’t have to subject our children to the ongoing horror of firearm violence in America. All Americans deserve to live their lives free from firearm violence, as well as from the fear and devastation that it brings. It will take the collective commitment of our nation to turn the tide on firearm violence.

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