The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and APHA National Summit this week in Washington, D.C., is for the countless Americans affected by gun violence. It is for the 100,000 victims of gunfire in the U.S. each year. It is for policymakers and responsible firearm owners who can act now to make our nation safer.
It was also for Andy and Barbara Parker, whose daughter, Alison, was shot and killed on live television two months ago. For them, a public approach to reducing gun deaths and injuries was a fight worth joining.
“We stand on your shoulders,” Andy Parker said to hundreds of public health professionals and gun violence prevention advocates yesterday. “The tide is turning and we have moved the needle.”
The U.S. is “on the threshold for tremendous change,” according to Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence President Dan Gross — and evidence comes in many shapes and sizes, including:
- CNN devoting its first question of this month’s Democratic presidential debate to gun violence prevention;
- 93 percent of Americans now support background checks for all gun buyers;
- six states that have expanded background checks to all gun sales since the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012; and
- R. 3411, a bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, would expand background checks to gun sales made over the Internet and at gun shows nationwide;
Gross added that concerned celebrities such as Kim Kardashian “and her 35 million followers on Twitter” are helping raise awareness of the gun violence epidemic and moving our nation closer to being safer.
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin welcomed attendees yesterday to share three ways the public health community can join the effort to reduce the harmful effects of gun violence: promoting the issue of gun violence as being prevention-focused, working with other groups — such as the Brady Campaign and One Million Moms — and removing the federal prohibition on gun violence research.
“I’ll throw the gauntlet down on something even more powerful,” Benjamin added. “We need a privately funded research initiative so we can answer questions … and talk more aggressively about the issues.”
Longtime APHA voices led much of the discourse throughout Tuesday’s scientific sessions. Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section member Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and who will be recognized with APHA’s David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health next week during the APHA Annual Meeting for his work on the topic, shared data on the correlation between strong gun laws and lower gun violence rates. Maternal and Child Health Section member Woodie Kessel shared 32,000 reasons — as in, the number of people in the U.S. who die from gun violence each year — why gun violence is a public health issue. And Maternal and Child Health Section Past Chair Judith Katzburg led a conversation on how other successful national movements, including marriage equality and anti-tobacco campaigns, can serve as models for the gun violence epidemic.
“We’re asking for commonsense solutions … not gun bans,” Kessel said. “Frankly we are also asking for civil rights and constitutional protections for all of us, not just some of us.”
Check out APHA’s gun violence prevention page to view our work, words and advocacy.