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Public health approach can prevent gun violence


Two people were arrested in connection to a house party shooting in the West Adams area that left three people dead and 12 others wounded, authorities from the Los Angeles Police Department said Sunday was another unacceptable event in an American public health epidemic. Gun violence is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our country, resulting in more than 33,000 deaths and 60,000 injuries each year, and billions of dollars in annual health expenditures. For too long, we as a nation have failed to take action on this devastating problem in our communities and it is increasingly clear that we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Each passing day that Congress delays action, more communities bear witness to endless episodes of gun violence. This ugly reality will continue to intrude upon our communities across the country, including Los Angeles California, unless our lawmakers take meaningful action.

The issues surrounding gun violence are complex and deeply rooted, which is why we must take a comprehensive public health approach to reduce its harmful impact. To adequately address this epidemic, there are several commonsense measures that Congress must pass to reduce the staggering toll of gun violence and assure public safety.

Our legislators must ensure that federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have adequate and unrestricted funding to conduct research on the causes of and how to prevent firearm injury and death. They must also ensure there are adequate data available to design targeted gun violence prevention strategies. We can achieve this through a nationwide expansion of CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, a state-based violent death prevention tool that links data from public health, law enforcement, medical examiners and social service agencies to create a more complete picture of the circumstances surrounding violent death.

It’s also critical that the federal ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines be reinstated. Criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, including all sales at gun shows and on the Internet, must be mandated to ensure these deadly weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.

State, local and community-based behavioral health systems must have the necessary resources to provide mental health treatment to those in need. Unfortunately, funding at the federal and state levels for mental health continues to be threatened by cuts. The Affordable Care Act provides comprehensive coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services as part of the Essential Health Benefits, and we must ensure people have access to this important health protection.

As a [public health advocate], I am pleased that President Obama included many of these provisions in his plan to reduce gun violence. Now it is time for Congress to act.  It is time we place public health before political interests.

The violence that takes place in communities around the country every single day threatens our nation’s health. But we have the ability to prevent this epidemic. Let’s work together to ensure evidence-based public health principles are at the heart of any efforts to reduce gun violence-related injury and death.