Supporting Change to Help End Gun Violence
I am sure you were as outraged as I was to hear that yet again, 18 lives were taken by firearms, most recently at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado and three Atlanta area salons. I am writing to express my sadness, my anger, and yes, my despair and frustration that we have made too little progress towards solving this major public health crisis. Indeed, in the past year we’ve seen the largest one-year increase in murders (75%-80% with firearms) in generations. Some major cities have seen the rate of gun violence double from one year to the next. And yet we are hearing the same rhetoric we have heard before with little forward movement towards lasting solutions.
It is tempting to throw up one’s arms and say… some things will never change. But they must, and they will if we all step in and commit to action, as individuals and as members of our public health community. I reached out to our colleagues in the Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy and asked them what specific steps each of us can take to support change. They offered these concrete suggestions:
- Educate yourself and others about the scope of gun violence in its various forms and what can be done to reduce deaths, injuries, and psychological trauma. The Center’s MOOC Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change | Coursera and website are good places to start.
- Contrary to what’s covered in the media, there are a range of evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence that have broad public support. Make space to understand the similarities in public opinion on gun policy.
- Learn more about legislation introduced in the Senate and the House to address gaps in current federal gun laws including the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2021, Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, and Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.
- Reach out to your elected officials to share your perspectives on gun policy and gun violence prevention. Let them know that you expect them to take action.
- Promote safe and responsible gun ownership and use. If you are a gun owner, be sure to store your firearms safe and secure when not in use and, regardless of whether you own guns, encourage your friends and family members who own guns to do the same.
- Recognizing that 60% of deaths from firearms are suicides and access to firearms is arguably the strongest risk factor for suicide, know the signs of potential self-harm. If you know someone who is exhibiting signs of suicidal thoughts or actions and has access to a firearm, offer to store these firearms for them until the risk has passed. Also, familiarize yourself with the use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) to help temporarily separate those at risk of violence or self-harm from their firearms.
- Finally, we can support survivors of gun violence. Here are some suggestions: SurvivorsEmpowered.org; several local organizations for survivors are mentioned in this Johns Hopkins News-Letter piece, “Lecture brings together Baltimore residents whose children were murdered.”
If we all commit to these actions and advocate for change by supporting organizations dedicated to public health solutions to gun violence through better firearms laws, improving neighborhood conditions, dismantling structural racism, and investing in community prevention efforts, we can make a difference.
Change is possible!
Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Cass Crifasi, PhD ’14, MPH
Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy
Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management
Daniel Webster, ScD ’91, MPH
Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy
Bloomberg Professor of American Health
Professor, Health Policy and Management
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University