U. S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA is the Nation’s Doctor. He has led the country’s public health system through our most challenging times during his tenure. As a grateful citizen and school nurse, I thank his efforts and applaud his leadership. But there has never been a Surgeon General’s Report on gun violence. Never. It is beyond time that one is authorized. H.R. 881, a bill requiring the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service to submit an annual report to Congress is languishing on The Hill.
Taking matters into their own hands, a group of past Surgeons General submitted an impactful letter to President Biden on December 12, 2022, the 10-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, to formally request a report be issued.
There is little question that firearm violence is a public health crisis,” the letter to Biden reads. “And yet, unlike for homelessness, opioids or other determinants of health, there has never been a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on gun violence in America. Not one.” excerpt retrieved from The Trace: Top Doctors Ask Biden for Surgeon General’s Report on Gun Violence
Here is the letter that was submitted:
The collective body of Nursing can make a meaningful contribution to this effort by voicing our support of the need for a Surgeon General’s Report. Beyond the call for action we should have an active role in submitting research, and testimony, quantifying and qualifying the impact of gun violence through subject matter nursing experts.
Surgeon General’s Reports are not authored by the surgeon general or their staff alone. Instead, the surgeon general convenes dozens of subject matter experts, medical professionals, and advocates. Such a diverse group could be especially helpful for a divisive issue like responding to gun violence, Carmona said. Like previous reports, it could help dispel myths about gun violence and parse existing research about which policies work and which don’t.
In their letter, the doctors also reject the notion that a Surgeon General’s Report would advocate for “gun control” policies.
“Incrementally, this can invoke change over time in what is now a very hyper-partisan, caustic issue,” Carmona told The Trace. “It can bring people together around how we keep our society healthy and safe and prevent hundreds and hundreds of needless shootings every year.” – retrieved from – The Trace: Top Doctors Ask Biden for Surgeon General’s Report on Gun Violence
Dr. Peter Masiakos, a trauma surgeon and co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Gun Violence Prevention, helped organize the letter. He, along with Carmona and more than a dozen other doctors, researchers, and public health and safety professionals, published a compendium of articles and perspectives on gun violence in the journal Current Trauma Reports in 2020. The collection, Masiakos said, was intended to serve as an early blueprint for a Surgeon General’s Report.
“Everybody is speaking about how this is a public health issue, but the person who’s most capable of galvanizing a public health response has not been charged with that,” Masiakos told The Trace. “It’s probably the most important public health crisis in America now. And if the surgeon general, the public health director, can’t say that, then it becomes diluted.” – retrieved from The Trace: Top Doctors Ask Biden for Surgeon General’s Report on Gun Violence
Dr. Peter Masiakos included the voice of school nursing in a compendium published in Current Trauma Reports in early 2020, just as the pandemic began. Here is a link to an article that I co-authored with dear colleagues: School Nurses Share Their Voices, Trauma, and Solutions by Sounding the Alarm on Gun Violence Robin Cogan, Donna M. Nickitas, Donna Mazyck & Sunny G. Hallowell.
Here is the full collection, as Dr. Masiakos said, it was intended to serve as an early blueprint for a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Gun Violence: Topical Collection on Gun Violence
Will you join me in encouraging our national nursing organizations, and state and local organizations to support the need for a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Gun Violence Prevention? If you would share, the letter with your nursing leadership and boards of directors, that is one place to start. Will Nursing as a body be willing to take a clear stand on the impact of gun violence as a public health crisis? This past October, The American Academy of Nursing held a panel about the impact of gun violence during their policy conference. I was honored to represent school nursing as a panelist but also spoke as a family member of victims and survivors of mass shootings.
We can keep these conversations going, but also take strong and clear positions on where our organizations stand. This is not a discussion of gun control, it is one of public safety, safe gun storage, banning assault-style weapons, and using evidence to keep schools and communities safe. Reclaiming our public and private spaces, free from the threat of gun violence must be a shared value. Safety is a human right. Guns have a place in this country, but just as we have used evidence to make cars safer, we must have the same impact on gun safety. It can be solved through public health measures, we have an excellent track record, now let’s add to the body of knowledge and evidence-based recommendations and policy changes.