National data show gun-related deaths are on the rise: between 2015-2016, the U.S. was home to nearly 27,400 homicides and nearly 45,000 suicides involving guns. Those numbers are the highest documented levels in a decade. About one in four women and one in nine men experience some form of intimate partner violence, and one out of every six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. In 2016, 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect were reported to local officials. Not all communities face the same rates or kinds of violence. For example, black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
As public health professionals, violence prevention, including gun violence, is most assuredly part of our jobs. Urge policymakers to provide research funding that's on par with the nation's gun violence epidemic, and call on lawmakers to pass commonsense measures that reduce the risk of gun deaths and injuries. Work with local colleges and universities on ways to prevent sexual violence, such as offering bystander intervention training, and ways to better help victims of sexual violence, such as offering trauma-informed services. Learn about community-based strategies for creating the kinds of safe, stable and nurturing environments that help prevent child abuse and neglect. Advocate for community-driven solutions that identify and target the root of violence and don't criminalize entire communities.
Much more study is needed, but research already shows commonsense gun safety laws can make a difference. For example, researchers found that in the years following Connecticut's permit-to-purchase handgun law, firearm homicides went down 40 percent. (See the Connecticut study and much more in APHA's American Journal of Public Health, which has committed to making all of its gun research open access). More traditional, public health-based interventions can make a difference, too. Home-visiting models have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of child maltreatment. Community-led models can be especially effective when it comes to violence prevention. The innovative Cure Violence model — which takes methods typically associated with disease control and applies them to violence prevention — has resulted in significant drops in local gun violence. Public health scientists also have identified highly cost-effective, citywide interventions that revitalize the places that people live, work and play to reduce gun violence, crime and fear for communities most in need.