Every day in the United States, health professionals confront the effects of firearm injury. In emergency rooms, trauma centers, ambulatory offices, and acute care and rehabilitation facilities, health professionals and the health systems they work within attempt to heal the wounds that firearms can inflict on individuals and their families. Thus, hospitals and health systems are in a position to grasp the scope of the issue and find opportunities to prevent firearm injury and death. In 2016 and 2017, the physicians and nurses at Kaiser Permanente treated more than 3,400 gunshot victims. These patients—from a single health system among the hundreds that operate across the United States—are a sobering reminder of the toll of firearm injury.
Firearm injury—including other-directed, self-directed, and unintentional injury and death—is a broad-based public health issue. In 2016, more than 38,000 people were killed by firearms.1 In the same year, half of those who died by suicide used a firearm, and three quarters of homicides involved a firearm.1 Firearm death is the third leading cause of death for children under age 17 in the United States.
A social network analysis by Kalesan and colleagues2 showed that almost everyone in the United States, at some point, will know someone injured or killed by a firearm. The nature of the injury varies—homicide is the more likely cause of a firearm death in an urban area, whereas suicide is more likely in a rural area—but every community in every geographic region and every socioeconomic stratum is …
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