The country is reeling in the wake of last week’s mass shooting of 20 children and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
There were 30,000 U.S. gun deaths in 2011—every one of which was a tragedy. But the death of 26 innocents inside an elementary school last Friday is commanding a powerful emotional response on a national scale.
It’s easy to understand why: those kids—those beautiful, goofy kids who are now smiling at us from memorials and tributes in media outlets across the country—they were killed in what should have been a safe space, and they were only in first grade. As President Obama said on Friday, they had their entire lives ahead of them.
In light of the Newtown tragedy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 report on the history of violence as a public health issue is well worth revisiting. So, too, are the efforts of groups like Cure Violence, institutions like the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Policy and Research, and the individual efforts of physicians across the country who recognize gun violence as not just a public safety issue, but a public health one.
It doesn’t appear to have been a factor in Friday’s particular gun-related homicides, but let’s also remember the overarching impact of poverty on public health—including gun violence. Some suggested reading:
- “The Geography of Gun Violence” (The Atlantic, 2012)
- “Narrowing the Gun Violence Map” (Urban Nation, 2012)
- “In the Crossfire: The Impact of Gun Violence on Public Housing Communities” (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2000)
- “Guns Kill, But Poverty’s the Trigger” (The Root, 2009)
As we grieve for the lives lost in Newtown, let’s strengthen our commitment to addressing violence as a public health issue—a public health issue that’s as impacted by social and economic factors as any other.