Is there a connection between cancer and gun violence? While you might have thought not, your doctor, and indeed healthcare workers across the country, see both as serious concerns to public health. With over 30,000 gun-related deaths and 60,000 reported injuries annually, gun violence has been a pressing public health problem in the U.S. for decades. As far as your doctor is concerned, just as exposure to a carcinogen increases your chances of developing cancer, exposure to guns increases your chance of being fatally wounded by one. Given the current political deadlock it’s hardly surprising that doctors are increasingly politically active, challenging legislature.
Yet, this is not a new phenomena. Older literature from the American Medical Association (AMA)—the largest group of physicians in the United States—calling upon health professionals to treat gun violence as a threat to public health cites legislative changes as necessary to decrease preventable deaths.
In the British Medical Journal, a physician puts forward a compelling argument that is surely applicable to the dialogue healthcare professionals are now having about gun violence in the United States:
Politicians make decisions that have far reaching and adverse health effects on the people whose well being we are entrusted with. It is our duty to openly challenge those decisions that will cause mental and physical harm to the nation.
Considering that the article describes political involvement as a “powerful method of preventative medicine” coupled with the fact that doctors want to protect the nation’s health, the emergency room inevitably transforms into a political arena where doctors are fighting legislative battles alongside medical ones.
Decades later a much stronger collective voice, led by the AMA, is again directly identifying gun violence as a priority public health issue. This call to action is echoed by the American Public Health Association and the American Nursing Association, the latter issuing a call for nurses to play a role in helping stop gun violence, and more specifically “meaningful gun control legislation.” 2016 has seen 6,500 gun deaths and counting, so perhaps seeing gun control as a public health matter isn’t as revolutionary as it seems.