Firearms: A Public Health Crisis

Firearm injuries—accidental or otherwise—should be addressed as a public health epidemic. Emergency physicians are leading the call for dedicating more resources into research on the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it.

While recognizing the right of individuals to own firearms, more can be done to prevent gun violence. In a long overdue vote, in 2019 Congress approved spending on firearm injury prevention research for the first time in more than two decades, a decision that encompasses initiatives that American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has long advocated for expanding.

ACEP published a research agenda in 2017 calling for studies on unintentional injury, individuals who commit reprehensible acts like mass shootings, and best practices for emergency departments, among others areas.

ACEP recently updated its position on firearm injury prevention.

Emergency physicians support policies supporting background checks for firearms purchases and efforts to restrict the sale and ownership of weapons and munitions designed for military or law enforcement use.

Emergency physicians also continue to advocate for improved access to mental health services from the emergency department (ED) and in the surrounding community.

While not the sole answer, increasing mental health services in America is an important part of reducing firearms injuries. Some 60 percent of deaths by firearms are suicides. Millions of people come to EDs across the country with psychiatric emergencies because there are severe shortages of mental health resources in the U.S.

Emergency physicians champion a more comprehensive community-based approach to mental health care, which means that we need more funding for local programs and professionals to give patients who currently do not receive treatment outside of the emergency department a better chance at leading a healthier life.

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