Gun control is a public health issue

The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) data on firearm fatalities in 2005 showed that greater than 39,000 deaths were caused by firearms. These deaths included 16,000 suicides, greater than 12,000 homicides, 600 justified defensive uses, and the remaining deaths were accidental discharges.

The danger posed by our Second Amendment right to bear arms is a divisive issue in our society. Gun violence is a danger we were recently reminded of with the tragic shootings of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other innocent victims in Tucson, Arizona. It is also a threat to our community here at UVA, felt more personally when our colleagues and friends at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University saw the brutal slaying of 32 of their own in April of 2007.

Firearm control and violence are not traditionally viewed as topics related to "healthcare," despite the obvious correlation between firearm injuries and emergency departments. It's not a stretch to accept that gunshot wounds lead either to fatalities, or to surgeries and rehabilitation for the almost 65,000 patients with nonfatal firearm wounds. Also, the public health world rightly points out that more deaths across the world are caused by preventable disease than guns. However, fatalities from gun violence should not be ignored.

Thousands who sustain injuries suffer are not able to go back to work for days, have hospital and other bills to pay, and ultimately end up requiring more help from the government and local agencies to support them through the costly recovery process.

The CDC estimates each gunshot fatality to cost approximately $30,000, while nonfatal injuries can add up to $300,000 in medical costs alone. A 2008 survey by the Public Services Research Institute estimates that the medical, judicial, and emergency services involved in firearm injuries and fatalies costs the federal, state and local government about $4.7 annually. If pain management costs, the loss of a productive member of the work force and decreased quality of life costs are added to the bill, firearm violence expenses can approach $100 billion annually, unfairly burdening taxpayers.

Guns hurt people, society and the economy in many ways, yet public health campaigns do not emphasize gun violence as a public health issue. This mentality has to change

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