April 17, 2023
Following a troubling surge in firearm deaths, the California Medical Association (CMA) is urging U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to issue a report on gun violence and provide recommendations for how to address this public health epidemic.
Against the current backdrop of Congressional gridlock on gun legislation, a Surgeon General’s Report can spur much-needed action. These reports are often landmark publications that identify and shape the science and culture of our public health and typically result in federal funding and increased attention on research that can inform change.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), firearm death surpassed 40,000 for the first time in 2020 and reached nearly 49,000 in 2021. A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that Americans are 25 times more likely to be victims of firearm violence than their counterparts in comparable high-income countries.
California stands apart from the rest of the country and has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, with a rate that is 37% below the national average. Despite that, a Californian is killed every three hours, and gun violence has become the second leading cause of death for California children under the age of 18.
Addressing our national epidemic of gun violence is particularly pressing given a wealth of statistics showing the disparate impact of gun violence on children, domestic violence victims and racial minorities, including:
- Following decades in which car crashes were the leading cause of death for young people, firearm violence is now the leading cause of death for children under the age 18 and account for 20% of adolescent deaths.
- In 2021, there were 42 school shootings, a record number at the time that was surpassed the following year in 2022 when there were 46 school shootings.
- From 2014 to 2019, 59% of all mass shootings were related to domestic violence.
- Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser has access to firearms.
- Young Black Americans (ages 15 to 34) experience the highest rates of gun-related homicide across all demographic groups. In 2020, Black Americans comprised 61% of all gun homicide victims, despite making up 12.5% of the general population.
CMA recently commended Congress and President Joe Biden for passing important gun reforms and an issuing an executive order on gun background checks. A Surgeon General’s Report could reinforce the government’s commitment to reducing gun violence and provide guidance on how to study and prevent this epidemic.