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8 local officials call for a public health approach to curb gun violence

DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images

The local coalition is calling for universal background checks and reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

By David Rattigan Globe Correspondent  

Eight municipal health directors have banded together to propose that a public health framework be applied to the issue of gun violence.

A statement approved by health officials in Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, and Swampscott was sent to the news media, elected officials, and professional associations. The statement asks that local health practitioners, elected officials, and the public speak out in support of its approach to solving the problem of gun violence, citing statistics compiled by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, which reported approximately 33,000 Americans are killed by gun violence annually.

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“We believe that a public health approach is needed to address and dramatically reduce the number of incidents, injuries, and deaths involving guns that occur in the US each year,” the statement from the local health officials says.

“Public health approaches have proven successful in reducing motor vehicle deaths and deaths due to smoking, by defining and monitoring the problem, identifying the risk factors, developing protective strategies and measures, and ensuring widespread adoption of those measures.”

In an e-mail, Sharon Cameron, health and human services director in Peabody, said that “We have actually been working on issuing a collective statement for over a year – there’s a lot of editing to be able to reach consensus on a statement with so many different communities involved.”

The group based its document on statements issued by NACCHO and the American Public Health Association.

The local officials’ statement lists seven areas in which they seek support, including federal funding for research; expanded surveillance of gun violence; expansion of access to mental health programs; a requirement that manufacturers update and expand gun safety measures, such as child-lock technology; policies to restrict and prohibit sales to high-risk persons; universal background checks; and reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

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“It is important to recognize that gun violence is not inevitable,” the statement says. “Just as aviation safety regulations make air travel safer for everyone, common-sense measures to prevent gun violence make communities safer for everyone.”

In an e-mail, Gloucester’s public health director, Karin Carroll, said that “Officials and public health advocates in Gloucester continue to be extremely concerned about this significant public health issue, both nationally and locally, and want to do our part to help raise awareness and urge policymakers to take action.”

Carroll cited measures Gloucester has taken, such as issuing a proclamation about domestic violence in conjunction with the city’s Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse.

“We urge our fellow local health practitioners, our elected officials at all levels of government, and the public at large to speak up and demand reasonable action to protect our communities from this preventable health crisis,” Carroll said.


David Rattigan can be reached at drattigan.globe@gmail.com.