Odessa. Dayton. El Paso. Gilroy. These are just the four most recent mass shootings to devastate communities across the United States.
 
Of course, gun violence is bigger than mass shootings: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 Americans are shot and killed … every single day. And every day, hospitals and health systems across the country respond to the trauma caused by gun violence.
 
Polling reveals that Americans overwhelmingly support expanding federal background checks to cover all gun sales and implementing “red flag” provisions to keep guns out of the hands of troubled individuals.
 
The House of Representatives passed bipartisan gun legislation earlier this year. Now that Congress has returned from recess, senators are facing increased pressure to act. And, the president has signaled that the matter deserves serious consideration.
 
Gun violence has a significant health care dimension. That’s why we as a country need to quantify the public health, economic and social costs of violence in America.
 
We need to clarify the association between mental illness and violence — recognizing that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators — while also advocating for improved access to behavioral health care.
 
We need to promote research and education to reduce violence and casualties in communities.
 
We need to make hospitals safe for staff, patients and their families … which is why the AHA is working to improve overall workplace safety through our Hospitals Against Violence initiative.
 
And we need to support community programs that lower risk for violence, such as implementing gun buy-back programs to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands; providing free trigger locks to prevent unintentional firearm discharge, no questions asked; and counseling and distributing educational resources on firearm safety in clinical settings.
 
Yesterday, 145 CEOs representing companies both big and small — Twitter, Uber, Lyft, Bain Capital, Airbnb and Levi Strauss, among many others — sent a letter to the Senate on this issue. They wrote: “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it’s time to stand with the American public on gun safety.”
 
Also yesterday, the widely-read publication Axios wrote: “CEOs are the new politicians” because they’re leading progress on major issues facing society.
 
As cornerstones of your communities, hospital and health system leaders have the unique authority to lead initiatives to reduce the risk for violence and advocate for advancing health.

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