After Las Vegas Shooting, Framing Gun Injuries As A Public Health Issue

Nov 1, 2017

It’s been a month since the deadly shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured hundreds more, and a group of trauma researchers is calling for better attention to the health impacts of firearms.

“Mass shootings get us talking, but mass shootings in no way reflect the mainstream of, or the bulk of, firearm deaths in this country,” says Dr. James Shultz, director of the Center for Disaster & Extreme Event Preparedness at the University of Miami and the lead author of The Las Vegas Shootings—Underscoring Key Features of the Firearm Epidemic, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For example, Shultz points out, more than 36,000 people die from firearms in a year, and nearly two thirds of those deaths are suicides. There are even more survivors.

Shultz spoke with Health News Florida about framing gun violence as a public health issue. You can listen to that conversation here:

Dr. James Shultz studies the trauma of disasters.
Credit courtesy James Shultz

Shultz and his co-authors write that an event like the Las Vegas shooting calls for greater conversation around the longer-term physical and mental health consequences of gun violence. For a case study in supporting survivors of high-fatality mass shootings, they point to the wraparound services provided after the 2011 Utøya Island terrorism attack that left 69 dead in Norway. There's also a discussion of how special interests have shaped the narrative of gun violence--and what that's meant for public health research.

From the article:

“Mass shootings are inescapably horrific and provoke needed attention to the challenge of firearm mortality and injury in the United States and other countries. Yet these rampage shootings remain a very small fraction of all firearm deaths and injuries. The important public and scientific discussions that emerge after each of these shootings should be encouraged as a way toward finding solutions. However, the discussion will be better served if complemented by a focus on the issues highlighted herein that are as important, if not more so, than many aspects of the firearm epidemic that currently dominate public discussion and debate.”

You can find the full text of the article here.