For Public Health Professionals

Eight Actions Public Health Professionals Can Take to Stop Gun Violence

As more than 12,000 public health professionals gather this week in Denver, Colorado for the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, a growing number of health professionals are seeking solutions to the American gun violence epidemic. Eighty-eight Americans — including eight children and teens — are killed every day by gun violence. Professionals in the public health, mental health, and medical fields are asking how they can reduce gun violence through a public health approach.

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence recommends eight actions public health professionals can take to stop gun violence:

1) Get Educated: Master the Basics and Learn the Risk-Based Approach to Reducing Gun Violence. Learn about the unique problem of gun violence in America and share those facts with your colleagues, friends, family, social media, and professional networks. For those new to the issue, this video is a great starting place, as are websites like The Trace and Vox. Once you have mastered the basics, take your education a step further. The Ed Fund staffs the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group of the nation’s leading researchers in the medical, mental health, public health, and legal fields. Together, Consortium members synthesize and translate existing research to develop gun violence prevention policy recommendations that address firearms access by persons who are at an elevated risk for committing interpersonal violence or suicide. The Consortium has published reports based on the best available scientific evidence, which include state and federal policy recommendations to reduce gun violence.

2) Are You a Mental Health or Medical Provider Who Sees Patients? Take the Free Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) Online Course. Though mass shootings garner much media attention, two thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and half of all people who die by suicide use a firearm. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers a two-hour course on Counseling on Access to Lethal Means where you can learn about the research surrounding access to firearms and suicides and about the appropriate way to counsel your patients. Bottom line: temporarily reducing access to firearms for individuals at risk of suicide is one of the most effective things you can do to save their lives.

3) Contact Your Legislators to Repeal the Ban on CDC-Funded Gun Violence Research. Demand action and funding on gun violence research, prevention, and policies. In 1996, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) helped pass an amendment such that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” As a result, funding for all gun violence related research plummeted and research was curtailed. This is unacceptable. Tell your legislators that you are a public health or medical professional and you expect them to take action to fund research and to enact gun policies that protect the health and safety of the public. Set a reminder in your calendar to call your senators and representatives once a week. Here is a guide that will assist you with your first correspondence.

4) Volunteer With a Local Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) Group. Attend local protests, vigils, and action days to stop gun violence in your community. The voice of the public health, mental health, and medical communities are vital in the gun violence prevention movement. Your participation in local activism is important to local legislators, community leaders, and fellow activists. To get connected to a local GVP group in your state/locality, email our sister organization at csgv@csgv.org.

5) Get Involved With Professional Associations Working on Gun Violence Prevention. Many professional associations have sections, workgroups, and other efforts dedicated to this issue. Add your voice to your specialty’s existing efforts or initiate action yourself. Look also for field-specific sign-on letters from professional and advocacy organizations including the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, and Doctors for America, which help to amplify a unified call-to-action from the health care community.

6) Attend Legislative Hearings and Testify. Your attendance and testimony at legislative hearings help gun violence prevention in two ways. First, legislators need to hear your expert experience — relevant research and stories about the personal and profound impacts of gun violence on you and your patients can increase credibility and urgency in your call-to-action. Second, your presence is a visual reminder to legislators that their constituents support gun violence prevention and serves to close the “Passion Gap” with pro-gun activists. Legislative hearings take place at every level of government, and your testimony can make an impact at each.

7) Stay Informed: Join the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence on Social Media. Get organizational and field-specific news, alerts on new research, and the tools you need to advocate for evidence-based gun violence prevention policies that will save American lives. To stay informed, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and follow the work of our sister organization, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), by signing up for CSGV’s email list at csgv.org/signup.

8) Make a Contribution to Gun Violence Prevention. As a small non-profit organization, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence depends on donations from individuals who join us in making communities safer. Please consider donating by visiting www.efsgv.org/donate to make a tax-deductible gift. Your donation will allow us to continue translating the best available research into evidence-based policies that will ultimately save lives. Every gift makes a difference!

Adelyn Allchin, MPH and Vicka Chaplin, MA, MPH are Public Health Analysts at the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence in Washington, DC.

About the Ed Fund:
The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund) was founded in 1978 as a 501©(3) organization that makes communities safer by working to reduce gun violence. The Ed Fund achieves this by engaging in policy development, advocacy, community and stakeholder engagement, and technical assistance.