July Physician Focus: Guns and Public Health

Deaths and injuries from firearms continue to shine a spotlight on gun violence as a public health issue. The latest mass shooting at a church in South Carolina joins a list that includes tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut, at Virginia Tech, and in the Colorado communities of Columbine and Aurora. These shocking incidents receive great attention because of the numbers of people killed and injured, the young ages of the shooters, and where they take place (schools, a church, a movie theater).

Those incidents, however, are just a few of  the total number, with many of them taking place at schools. Since the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy in 2012 that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and 6 adults, an additional 127 school shootings have occurred in the U.S., 73 of them in grades K-12, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which tracks such data.

Physicians have since become some of the most vocal advocates for gun safety. In April, seven physician organizations, the American Public Health Association, and the American Bar Association issued a call to action, saying “Deaths and injuries related to firearms constitute a major public health problem in the United States.”

To continue to highlight this important topic, the July episode of Physician Focus features a discussion with Michael Hirsh, M.D., (photo, right) Surgeon-in-Chief of UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center and Medical Director of the Public Health Department in Worcester, Mass., and Robert Sege, M.D., (center) Vice President of Health Resources in Action in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. Hosting this edition is primary care physician Bruce Karlin, M.D. (left).

Among the topics of conversation: what parents can and should do to make a home with guns safer for children, how guns in the home can lead to homicide or suicide, how technology can help to make firearms safer, the physician perspective on ‘gag laws’ preventing doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients, and gun buyback programs as a way to reduce the violence.

Physician Focus, now in its 11th consecutive year of production, is available for viewing on public access television stations throughout Massachusetts. It is also available online at www.physicianfocus.org,www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, and on YouTube.

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