Preventing gun violence in 5 steps

Gun violence is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It's a public health crisis, but it's one that can be solved.


  1. Gun violence follows only car crashes as the leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24, and is the second leading cause of traumatic death related to a consumer product in the United States. Homicide, usually involving a gun, is the leading cause of death for young black people in America.
  2. Homicide and suicide by firearms are preventable causes of death. Public health advocates can help their communities become safer, healthier places by focusing on efforts to reduce gun violence in their neighborhoods and across the country.
  3. 1. Invest in funding for gun violence research.

  4. Spending on research can help improve our understanding of gun violence, which can lead to prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Violent Death Reporting System, for example, uses data from 32 states to chart circumstances around violent deaths to find similarities in circumstance or location. Better understanding of these aspects of gun violence can lead to better prevention programs, saving lives, according to CDC.
  5. 2. Make mental health services accessible to all.

  6. More than half of all suicide deaths are shootings, according to CDC. Better treatment for depression and emergency intervention for those having suicidal thoughts could decrease those numbers.
  7. People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general public, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' And with one in five American adults facing some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime, that's a lot of potential victims. Only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental health issues, notes.
  8. 3. Prioritize domestic violence prevention.

  9. According to the Violence Policy Center and a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, having one or more guns in the home made a woman 7.2 times more likely to be killed by her partner. Previous instances of domestic violence increased that risk to 14.6 times more likely.
  10. 4. Push for policy that will improve safety.

  11. Public health advocates argue for common sense gun laws. And they aren't alone: Nearly 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks for people purchasing guns. APHA calls for these background checks, as well as reinstating a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, funding research and expanding mental health services in its gun violence prevention fact sheet.
  12. Some lawmakers have taken up the cause of common sense gun policies. Both Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have introduced legislation that public health advocates hope would improve public safety. However, neither bill has been passed into law.
  13. 5. Place emphasis on interpersonal violence.

  14. While mass shootings garner lots of media attention, interpersonal violence, or person-on-person shootings, kill many more people each year, less visibly. Interpersonal violence, inflicted on an individual or small group, gets less attention than mass shootings, perhaps in part because those most at risk to be victims or perpetrators tend to come from communities at high risk for unemployment, poverty and other risk factors for health.
  15. Addressing social determinants of mental and physical health can play a role in preventing violence. The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention says mentoring programs have been proven to reduce the risk factors that may lead to gun violence later in life.
  16. Unsure where to start? APHA has information on how to promote gun violence prevention, and an online continuing education program. APHA also has an action alert ready so you can tell Congress to support common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.