U.S. experiencing another epidemic besides COVID-19
by Stephen J. Grindel, DO —
The COVID-19 epidemic has dominated media coverage and public conversations during 2021. Yet there is another epidemic in our country that is only briefly mentioned in the news, perhaps because it occurs too frequently. I am talking about the epidemic of gun violence.
You are 25 times more likely to be killed by gun violence in the United States compared with other high-income countries. About 39,000 Americans die from gun violence every year, which is approximately 100 deaths per day. The United States has 4% of the world’s population, yet 35% of global firearm suicides.
Over 1 million people in the United States have been shot in the past 10 years — an amazing statistic. In domestic violence cases, you are five times more likely to be killed when the abuser has access to a gun.
The statistic that I agonize over the most is that the second leading cause of death in children younger than 18 years of age is gun violence. The No. 1 cause is motor vehicle accidents, and No. 3 is cancer. A significant amount of funding is spent on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and cancer research, but very little is spent on gun-violence research.
This is a national public health epidemic and should be labeled as such, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. These institutions recommend funding research and establishing constitutionally appropriate restrictions on the use of large-capacity magazines and features designed to increase a gun’s rapid and extended killing capacity.
Another measure recommended by the AAFP is universal background checks, which have been shown to decrease firearm-related homicides. Also recommended is improved access to mental health care for all individuals. Laws aimed at restricting children’s access to guns have been shown to reduce self-inflicted and unintentional firearm deaths.
Recently there have been multiple shootings in our community. The epidemic is here where we work and live. In fact, right after I wrote this column, I went downstairs to watch the news. Just down the street from where I live a shooting occurred at the Whole Foods grocery store, a place I frequently shop.
We can turn our heads and ignore the problem, or we can take action and encourage funding for research regarding gun violence. With knowledge of the cause of the problem, we can then move to effective solutions to treat this issue.
We must engage in discussion and pursue interventions to cure this epidemic.