Some federal lawmakers want to examine gun violence as a public health epidemic

WASHINGTON — Data from the Gun Violence Archive shows more than 39,000 people have died in gun incidents this year alone.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, lawmakers met with doctors, community leaders and legal experts about this growing crisis as a possible public health issue.

“It became painfully clear that this young child was exceptionally high risk for reinjury after being discharged,” said Dr. Franklin Cosey-Gay, Director of the Violence Recovery Program in Chicago.

During this congressional hearing, Dr. Cosey-Gay shared that story about a 12-year-old patient that he’s treated in the past. He said his program is a hospital-based initiative working with survivors of gun violence in Chicago.

Cosey-Gay said they’re treating gun violence as a public health concern. This includes working with medical specialists and social workers and even collaborating with violence intervention teams.

“Many of them have been involved with causing the harm… [and] they have had an opportunity to redirect their lives with support so now them being credible with how to engage and create non-aggression agreement,” he said.

But Amy Swearer with the conservative policy organization, The Heritage Foundation, doesn’t believe gun violence is a public health issue. She argues categorizing it that way raises constitutional concerns for second amendment rights.

“Doesn’t change the fact that most gun crimes are perpetrated not by ordinary lawful gunowners but by a small subset of repeat offenders who are already prohibited from owning guns,” said Swearer, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Instead, she wants federal lawmakers to lean on existing mental health frameworks.

“Congress can compel the military branches to better share with civilian authorities all relevant information about service members who pose a danger to themselves or their communities,” she said.

Part of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act included $250 million for community violence intervention. There’s also money for community mental health services.

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