A Public Health Problem
The What You Can Do initiative approaches firearm-related injury as a public health problem and believes in the unique position of physicians to help reduce it.
Several major medical and public health associations have made similar statements on firearm violence, citing it as a leading cause of death in the U.S. and a substantial burden on the U.S. economy. In late 2018, the American College of Physicians released a position paper expanding upon and strengthening its prior policies on firearm violence and reaffirming that "the medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out on prevention of firearm-related injuries and deaths." The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Surgeons have also issued statements on firearm violence as a public health problem and have set priorities for reducing it.
In February 2019, the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma hosted the inaugural Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention. Attendees included individuals from 42 professional medical and injury prevention organizations and the American Bar Association. The group aimed to find opportunities for apolitical, consensus-based approaches to addressing firearm injury and death while making firearm ownership as safe as possible.
On average in 2019, 109 Americans died by firearm each day.
There were 39,707 deaths by firearm in the U.S. in 2019. Sixty percent (23,941) were suicides and 37% (14,861) were homicides. An additional 486 firearm deaths (1.2%) in 2019 were unintentional.1
Firearms are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25-34, and the second-leading cause of death for those ages 15-24.
To reduce firearm injury and death, providers should focus on prevention. Work to ensure that when firearms are present, patients and their loved ones understand the risk of harm from firearms and take action to reduce that risk.