Minimizing Suicides: Firearm Injury Prevention
Department of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham
PUH 307-2D: Public Health Systems
Dr. Jessica Chambliss, PhD, MPH
April 27, 20212
Part I: Key Issue
Why is this health issue important?
Due to political pressure for gun reform and ever-changing social norms firearms injuries
and deaths have been a key point in lobbying for gun control. Over the past few decades there
have been an abundance of highly publicized mass shootings that have tended to sway opinions
that firearms are inherently bad and should be more controlled. With that aside firearms injuries
have been on a steady rise, but so has the population. It is not one of the current top ten causes of
death within the US, but it is remarkably close.
How many people does it impact?
It impacts all Americans indirectly and a small percentage of the population directly.
According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
which was published in 2015, it is estimated that 67,000 people per year in the United States are
injured by firearms and that the highest case-fatality rates were from self-harm. All firearm
deaths: 39,707. Deaths per 100,000 population: 12.1 (CDC, 2019).
How serious is it?
Any injury that can be prevented should be taken seriously. Also, the high number of
injuries (67,000 in which half are fatal and 19,000 of those are self-inflicted (CDC, 2019) create
a strain on our medical systems along with our judicial system.
Is it preventable?
Prior to firearms being invented people were killing each other (or themselves) en masse with
the weapon of choice during that time period. Within the US firearms and firearm owners have3
been a large part of this nation and only up until recently in our history has there been a move to
either outright ban firearms or severely limit their availability thinking that would cause an end
to firearms injuries. It is seemingly a cultural change that has caused the increased numbers of
injuries and that would be the only viable solution to preventing them. Banning something just
means a criminal that does not already follow the law will have a firearm, they will not magically
disappear. So, in a sense it is preventable, but the means of injury may just change to another
medium. There are around 393 million guns in (Ingraham, 2019) the US along with a plethora of
gun laws currently on the books. Enforcement of those laws and stiffening penalties could help
to curb gun violence as well.
What is evidence-based for prevention?
The United States passed the Brady Bill, which was implemented to prevent future
firearm injuries by initially regulating the product. The bill was passed in 1993 and it creates a
five-day waiting period for a handgun purchase. This has provided protection from curbside sales
of firearms to criminals, which obviously are dangerous to everyone.
In 2012, New Zealand passed a law that police officers can no longer carry firearms and
there is data that this has significantly decreased firearm injuries. After further restrictions were
implemented in 2011, statistics showed that in twenty-five years New Zealand’s murder rate was
the lowest it has ever been.
Why is this health issue controversial?
The topic of gun control has been increasingly popular in modern media due to the
political nature of this debate. Because there have been a high number of mass shootings in
schools and targeting minority populations, many people have called for stricter gun reform, and4
the limiting of what types of weapons are available for purchase. There has been push back from
primarily conservative voters and representatives who feel that these restrictions would infringe
Controversy: Does it help or hinder progress?
Controversy brings attention to the topic. When there is controversy, the media will cover
it and it becomes exposed to many more people which can get policy makers involved to step in
and bring it to the attention of government officials. It also hinders progress because some
citizens may support policy A and others support policy B causing there to be a holdup in the
What specific factors are involved?
Our constitution, individual rights/personal freedoms, and safety are all factors that play
greatly into this issue. Americans have a great fear of having what they believe to be their
“rights” infringed upon. This makes policy development and passing legislation that regulates or
restricts firearm access very difficult. Media representation of gun operation and ownership is
also an important factor when evaluating firearm safety and gun ownership.
Do economics, government, scientific uncertainty, or politics play a role?
Politics play a big role in this issue because firearm ownership has been significantly
politicized by our government and various private entities. Firearm ownership- and specifically
the right to purchase firearms with fewer regulations has become a political platform for many
people who identify as “right-leaning”. Because gun ownership is considered a “right” within our
constitution, many people are reluctant to pass legislation that limits or restricts who can
purchase a gun.5
What is the role of the media?
The media is responsible for relaying information and messages but is usually biased and can
accurately or inaccurately influence the opinion of the audience. In the age of social media and
the internet, the media will play a massive role in disseminating information as well as opinions
on the policy we are proposing. Bias in the media is nearly inescapable, so presenting our
controversial policy in a way that is non-threatening to those concerned about their constitutional
rights will be of the utmost importance. The media is overall going to play a large part in
influencing our stakeholders.
Part II: Policy Analysis
How does the study of mental health relate to this discussion?
Mental health is a risk factor of violence and access to firearms may increase the risk of
acting out physical harm to others or to oneself. Without “mental health background checks”,
those who are not mentally stable can easily purchase firearms and then commit crimes with it.
For example, many of those that committed mass shootings or suicide have complex psychiatric
histories. Those with good intentions and stable mental health should receive psychiatric
referrals to purchase a gun or it should be required to get a firearms license.
What is the role of the NRA? Public health advocacy organizations?
The NRA stands for the National Rifle Association of America. They are a gun rights
advocacy group that has gained increasing popularity due to their involvement in recent political
campaigns. The NRA is the most widely known gun advocacy organization, but there are also a
number of public health organizations that work against the NRA to advocate for more restrictive
gun laws and strive to prevent the occurrences of gun violence. A few of these public health
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