Commentary

Treat gun violence like the public health crisis it is

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Last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, which killed 59 people and wounded 500, was committed by a single individual who legally purchased an arsenal that allowed him to fire hundreds of high-caliber bullets within minutes into a large crowd. This is just the latest in a series of high-profile mass killings that appear to be increasing in frequency.1

As terrifying as mass murders are, they account for only a small fraction of gun-related mortality. Everyday about 80 people in the United States are killed by a gun, usually by someone they know or by themselves (almost two-thirds of gun-related mortality involves suicide).2 No other developed country even comes close to our rate of gun-related violence.2

What to do? Recall anti-smoking efforts. Gun violence is a public health issue that should be addressed with tried and proven public health methods. A couple of examples from history hold valuable lessons. While tobacco-related mortality and morbidity remain public health concerns, we have made marked improvements and saved many lives through a series of public health interventions including increasing the price of tobacco products, restricting advertising and sales to minors, and prohibiting smoking in public areas, to name a few.3

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