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Reps. Kelly, Espaillat, Lee introduce bill to recognize gun violence as a public health emergency 

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., was one of three members of Congress to introduce the Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency Act on Thursday, July 27.

The legislation would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce an annual report on gun violence, its public health effects, and action taken by the federal government.

Kelly, who represents Homewood and Flossmoor in Congress, serves as vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. She proposed this legislation with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY). 

This report will help inform policymakers at every level on how to respond to gun violence and further inform a collective public health approach to ending gun violence. 

Specifically, this legislation calls on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publish:

  • Data on national firearm deaths and injuries disaggregated by age, sex, gender, location, type of violence, and type of firearm;
  • Information on the types of programs used to respond to and reduce gun violence and their effectiveness; 
  • Data on federal funding and frequency of research relating to gun violence. 

“In 2022, 44,357 Americans died of gun violence, and nearly 40,000 more were injured. Gun violence must be treated as a public health issue; however, we cannot identify and deploy interventions without understanding the root causes,” said Kelly. “No one should be afraid to go to work, school, or the park because they might get shot. We deserve to live our lives without fear. This is why I am reintroducing the Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency Act.

“The lack of comprehensive firearms data severely hamstrings efforts to curb the growing threat of gun violence. The Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce an annual report on gun violence, its public health effects, and actions taken by the federal government to elevate gun violence as a public health emergency. Gun violence impacts all communities, and the government must better deploy resources and evidence-based solutions – and this bill is a step in the right direction,” said Lee.

“It is high time for U.S. policymakers to call on our top public health officials in order to craft effective, consensus policies for preventing gun violence and gun deaths in the U.S.,” said  Espaillat. “The Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency Act is an excellent first step towards treating gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, and it will provide policymakers with reliable data on gun violence and gun violence solutions for years to come.”

“The Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Act is more than just legislation; it’s a lifeline,” said Greg Jackson, executive director of Community Justice Action Fund. “Gun violence ravages our communities daily, hitting Black and brown neighborhoods hardest. Mandating an annual report on gun violence is a tangible step from treating symptoms to addressing root causes that will transform how we approach gun violence – not merely as a crime issue, but a public health crisis. We applaud the leadership of Reps. Robin Kelly, Barbara Lee, and Adriano Espaillat on this life-and-death issue and urge Congress to advance this legislation which would prove vital in our battle for safer communities.”

“In order to solve a crisis, you must first understand it — and that’s certainly true for our nation’s gun violence crisis, which kills 120 Americans every day and wounds hundreds more. Everytown is grateful to Congresswoman Kelly for reintroducing legislation that would provide the public and policymakers with hard data on the steep human cost of gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Today, guns are the number one cause of death for America’s children, threatening the very future of our nation. Continuing down this current path will inevitably lead to more devastation. It is time for us to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic. It is vital for the U.S. Surgeon General to regularly inform Congress on what this epidemic is doing to our country to hold our institutions accountable for addressing these life-altering effects. Brady applauds Congresswoman Kelly for re-introducing this pivotal legislation to ensure this public health emergency is afforded the attention and resources needed to eliminate it,” said Kris Brown, resident of Brady.

“March For Our Lives is pleased to support the Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Act as a crucial and necessary step towards addressing the devastating impact of gun violence on our communities,” said Zeenat Yahya, director of policy at March For Our Lives. “This legislation not only acknowledges gun violence as a pressing public health epidemic, but also paves the way for evidence-based prevention strategies and will help inform policymakers at every level on how to respond to gun violence with a public health approach. For several years, March and our allies have called for federal recognition of the epidemic so that we can move the resources we need across government to address this crisis. We’re happy to stand with our friend Congresswoman Robin Kelly and other allies in Congress to push for this legislation to fight for the end of the senseless and tragic toll of gun violence.”

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