In a July 1, 2022 article–three days before the Fourth of July holiday would see two mass shootings–trauma surgeon Deborah Kuhls authored an article on firearm injury for the University of Nevada News Center. Dr. Kuhls, chief of critical care at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV and medical director of University Medical Center’s Trauma Intensive Care Unit, sees the scourge of gun violence as a twin medical and public health crisis.
Involved for decades with the injury prevention committees of the country’s leading surgical societies, Dr, Kuhls continues to work on policy, best practices and research to prevent firearm injuries and deaths. She suggests that–in addition to enacting policy at the national level, such as the recently enacted Safer Communities Act, medical professionals can intervene by talking with patients about securing firearms in their homes, inquire about firearms with patients who may be at risk of harm to self or others, and discuss a firearms plan when a member of the household develops dementia.
Dr. Kuhls says, “Firearm-related deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate. Since 2017, the mortality rate for firearm injuries surpassed that of vehicular injuries and has continued to climb to a mortality rate of 13.7 per 100,000 population (2020). That translates to 45,222 firearm deaths in 2020, or 124 deaths per day.
Here is the breakdown of firearm deaths in 2020:
- 24,292 (53.7 percent) were suicide
- 19,384 (42.8 percent) were homicide
- 611 (1.4 percent) as a result of legal intervention
- 535 (1.2 percent) as a result of unintentional discharge of a firearm
- 400 (0.9 percent) unknown intent
Firearm deaths have also surpassed vehicular deaths for children and adolescents. By comparison, U.S. vehicular deaths totaled 40,698 in 2020 (12.4 per 100,000 population). Deaths are just the “tip of the iceberg” and several organizations are currently working on improved approximations for total firearm-related injuries in the U.S.”