Health professionals declare gun violence a public health threat

By | 2021-05-07T14:42:04-04:00 March 5th, 2018|18 Comments

Following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, more healthcare providers are calling for tangible solutions to what they believe has become a public health crisis.

One day after a former student opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people, American Medical Association President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, urged action addressing gun violence. “The pervasiveness of gun violence and the weapons used in these crimes have changed the way we live,” Barbe wrote in the Feb. 15 post on the AMA website. “In movie theaters, places of worship, offices, restaurants, night clubs and schools, people today make clear note of escape routes. Schools, including the one attacked yesterday, regularly practice for active shooter situations.”

Barbe pointed out the effects of pervasive gun violence in the U.S. is not just affecting the general public, but the healthcare community as well.

“In emergency departments and trauma centers, we struggle with much more complicated, dangerous injuries inflicted by lethal ammunition fired by military-grade weapons,” he wrote.

“At the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting, which began the day after the deadly shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, physicians from across the country and at every stage in their career spoke about treating gunshot victims and the scale of violence we are experiencing today,” Barbe said. “Their stories resonate as much today as they did nearly two years ago.”

The American Nurses Association in 2015, following mass shootings in Lafayette, La.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C., called on policymakers to ban assault weapons and enact other effective gun control reforms to protect the public and restore access to mental health services for individuals and families.

One policy healthcare professionals have sought to change in the wake of recent shootings is the Dickey Amendment, a more than a decade-old amendment sponsored by Jay Dickey, an Arkansas congressman, according to a Feb. 15 article in The Atlantic. In 1996, Congress made the amendment to a spending bill, which forbade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to “advocate or promote” gun control, according to the article.

More than 100 medical organizations asked Congress in 2016 to lift the Dickey Amendment, which makes researching and collecting data on gun violence more difficult, the article said.

“We in public health count dead people. It’s one of the things we do. And we count them in order to understand how to prevent preventable deaths,” Nancy Krieger, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR in 2015, according to the The Atlantic article.

At least 65% of healthcare providers who responded to a Medscape Medical News poll view gun violence as a public health threat, according to a Dec. 28, 2017, article.

After the Nov. 5, 2017, church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, FAAN, wrote in a Nov. 7, 2017, post that nurses have a responsibility to advocate for improved policy regarding gun violence under the ANA Code of Ethics. “Every time we do not act, we strengthen the conviction of the person who is currently planning the next mass shooting,” Mensik wrote.

“Based on this country’s recent history, we know there’s a good chance that someone may be planning the next mass shooting right now. This person knows, based on recent similar heinous acts, that we — nurses, legislators and the general public — haven’t figured out how to prevent this from happening.”

Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first graders and six adults dead, there have been 400 school shootings, according to The New York Times.

“Some of us are too afraid to alienate family, friends, loved ones or colleagues by having an evidence-informed conversation, which can go a long way to figuring out how to prevent or predict this type of violent behavior,” Mensik wrote in her post. “While we may not be able to stop the next one, by continuing these conversations we can slow this down, ultimately stopping most of them.”


Courses related to ‘gun violence’

WEB360: Active Shooter Training for Healthcare Professionals: What You Need to Know (1 contact hr)
This webinar will discuss survival steps attendees can take in the event of an active shooter event occurring at the workplace. The topics covered will include: developing a mindset of action and survival during active shooter incidents, preparing for critical incidents in the workplace, actions to take in active shooter situations, law enforcement response to critical incidents and steps to take when confronted by first responders, emergency action plans in healthcare facilities, and characteristics of active shooter situations.

CE192-60: Forensic Nursing and School Shooters
 (1.5 contact hrs)

Many forensic nurses focus on interpersonal violence. At one time, schools — a workplace for students, teachers and nurses — were considered safe. The reality is that violence on school grounds and inside school buildings is continuing in the aftermath of several high-profile cases of shooting homicides in these settings. Nurses working in the school, community, and emergency and psychiatric mental health settings can play a key role in the prevention of violence by understanding the dynamics and profiles behind these types of homicides.

CE117-60: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Part 1 — An Overview
 (1 contact hr)

Post-traumatic stress disorder was once associated mainly with the survivors of wars, but today it is used to describe symptoms seen in a wide range of trauma survivors. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD indicates that at some point in their lives, 7% to 8% of the U.S. population will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, although more than half will experience a trauma. This educational activity will address causes, symptoms, and management of this disorder.

CE710: Knife and Gun Injuries
 (1 contact hr)

Penetrating trauma involves wounding instruments that penetrate the skin and directly injure body tissue. Although there are numerous examples of penetrating trauma — such as a child falling on a pencil that penetrates the globe of the eye or a piece of shrapnel from an explosive device tearing through a limb — two obvious causes of penetrating trauma are firearm wounds and stabbings. This module discusses the mechanism of injury involved in firearm injuries and stab wounds. The healthcare providers should have a baseline understanding of the mechanisms of injury surrounding this form of trauma.


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About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for from Relias. She develops and edits content for the blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the Digital Editions. She has more than 25 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.


  1. Avatar
    Roger Furtado March 7, 2018 at 10:20 am - Reply

    This gun violence has become a menace and most of us know the solution but guns lobby wins always with their powerful lobbyists and money. Only solution is to make the access to gun difficult. Most of the countries where citizens do not get easy access to guns are relatively safer from this menace.

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      Candy March 11, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      You obviously haven’t seen the rape incidents in England and other parts of Europe. Look at what happens to people in the middle east. Look at China…do want the government to OWN you!

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      Hope Baker March 12, 2018 at 1:08 am - Reply

      Please remember that statistics show that gun free zones are soft targets. The solutions to society’s woes start in the heart of the home not more government infringement upon our 2nd amendment rights. The NRA represents our voice as U.S. citizens to be able to protect ourselves, our families, and our property.

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      Tammy March 14, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      In order to obtain guns legally there is a background check that is done to obtain a gun purchase permit from County Sheriff Office. Guns that are obtained illegally can’t and won’t ever have difficult access. Gun control laws are just punishing law abiding citizens that enjoy shooting sports and hunting. I was given my first gun at the age of 3 and was taught proper gun safety, and I have passed that down to my own children. Why should law abiding citizens be punished for the behaviors of criminals. We done have bans on knives and cars, and they are used to kill more people than guns.

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    Wes Conn March 11, 2018 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I find it ironic that we “Healthcare” professionals are claiming that gun violence is a public health threat. I think our focus should be not killing thousands while they are in the hospital. Healthcare mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US. You can argue less guns equal less gun crime, but then again with new rules Im sure the good hearted criminals will no be able to find a gun. Works well for Mexico.

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    Candy March 11, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Liberalism is the public health concern. Punishing law abiding citizens is not the answer. We have a moral decline in this nation.

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      Hope Baker March 13, 2018 at 2:39 am - Reply

      I wholeheartedly agree! My husband is a retired police officer and knows full well that guns aren’t the source of the problem. The breakdown of the family unit is the most contributing factor to the degradation of society. Values and mores are defined and developed in the home, good or bad. Society has created an atmosphere of fear to discipline our children in the right way and to teach them that there are consequences to their actions.

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    Gillis Hammett March 11, 2018 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    As a retired police officer and RN I am not endorsing any form of new gun laws. Having been a ER nurse and criminal investigator I have seen both sides. Further gun control is not the issue. Restoration of family responsibility and current enforcement are the answers along with better mental heath care.

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    Anne Sedelke March 11, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Cars, and or alcohol and driving under the influence, is a BIGGER THREAT. Think I will buy a horse, as CARS SHOULD BE BANNED, AND DIFFICULT TO GET.

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    Anne Sedelke March 11, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply


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    Nurse that Cared March 11, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    I agree to not making it easy to obtain a gun for all the wrong reasons! Until it’s your child, your love one that is killed just because someone is wanting to kill for the sake of killing!

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    Alan M Villiers March 11, 2018 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    The guns are not the problem anymore than syringes and needles are responsible for IV heroin addicts. The root causes of these problems are the people involved, they’re beliefs or ideologies or mental health issues are the problem. Thanks to the Community Health movement more and more people and families in need of mental health care find it increasingly difficult to secure. The problem is illustrated when it takes 60 plus days to get an appointment for medication evaluation. I would agree that there needs to be more linkages between law enforcement and the mental health community. There are no simple answers but most of the rhetoric on gun control is simplistic, sophomoric, poorly thought out and misses the root causes – the perpetrators. Recall that mass murders have been committed with knives, vehicles and abortions. Want to talk about the latter?

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    Randy March 11, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Maybe we need to look at causes instead of tools. Blaming guns does nothing and statistics prove that over and over. Maybe the ANA and the AMA need to be banned also, after all, 195,000 deaths per year are caused by medical errors. 37,000/yr die from vehicle crashes and 100,000/yr die from alcohol related causes. But I never hear a call to ban cars, doctors, or nurses. And we all know how successful the ban on alcohol was. Blaming the tool will never result in the solution for anything. Its like blaming the scissor for a bad hair cut. Lets check the fear mongering and look to the source. Treat the cause and stop ordering antibiotics for a headache.

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    PJC March 11, 2018 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    I as a health care professional do not blame guns for the violence. Our society’s moral standards have diminished and life in general is no longer respected or valued. Violent movies, violent video games, violent music is prevalent in our country desensitizing people in general. Home life with two parents, one home and one working is very rare and making it difficult for parents to have the time to instill respect and value in the lives of our children. Responsible gun ownership is a constitutional right.
    I am not ambivalent to the violence or the horrendous outcomes of that violence, but the blame lies with the person who performs the act. Someone bent on revenge or violence will find a way to play it out with or without a gun.

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    Caren Griffin March 11, 2018 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    We need to have some serious gun control. If someone has their mind made up to kill, nothing will stop them of course so there will still be people murdered but if we look at one simple thing – the numbers. It just stands to reason less guns equal less shootings. It’s that simple. Next in importance is we need to have more (and good) mental health providers available for everyone.

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    Dan Burgesd March 12, 2018 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Dont forget motor vehicles as public health threats.

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    Phil McCracken March 12, 2018 at 4:09 am - Reply

    Nice try. Attempting to make a political issue a “public health” issue. You’re using this as an excuse to regurgitate the same old tired BS direct from the Democrat party mimeograph sheet. How about getting behind safe staffing laws instead of lobbying against them? And using the excuse that it goes against self governance. You’re peeing on our heads and telling us it’s raining.

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    Carol March 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    The trouble is, the bad guys will always have access. And if they don’t, they will use machetes or pipe bombs. We need to get to the root of the problem to stop people from wanting to kill as many random people as possible.

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