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Thursday, December 7 • 11:20am - 11:50am
The Road Not Taken: Collaboration Between Health Experts and Firearm Trainers to Reduce Firearm-Related Injuries

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Across America, individuals and communities live with a potent fear of being hurt by a gun. Efforts to confront this health crisis have stalled for decades, even though most Americans view firearm injury as a major problem (1). A primary culprit for the lack of progress is the absence of collaborative partnerships between essential stakeholders in medicine, public health, law enforcement, and the community of firearm owners, trainers, and retailers. Widely accepted, carefully evaluated effective, community-based firearm injury prevention programs are essentially non-existent.Few evidence-based tools are currently available to reduce the risk of people harming themselves or others with firearms, or to alert families and communities about the warning signs of danger and how to respond appropriately. While many well-intentioned programs have been developed by advocacy groups, few have been designed with input from public health experts, medical providers, or the firearm sector and there is little rigorous data to support their value (2,3,4). The exception is interventions used by healthcare providers, which have shown that the right training can increase their capacity to discuss firearms with high-risk groups (5), many of whom are brought to medical care through the awareness of their families, friends, and other communities members. There are an estimated 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States and more than 80 million US adults own firearms (6). At the same time, many public health and medical professionals own or use guns. Indeed, the percentage of physicians with guns (55%) may actually be slightly higher than that of the overall population (7). Concern about firearm misuse is high among firearm owners and industry groups, and numerous firearm industry organizations address the health issues that influence firearm use in their publications, such as stopping mass shooters (8), protecting mental health in the COVID-19 era (9), recognizing intimate partner violence (10), preventing suicide in veterans (11), and taking action to ensure gun safety among the elderly (12) to name a few.These data suggest that a diverse array of stakeholders agree that the mental, physical, and social health of gun users play major roles in the proper use of firearms. What is needed to comprehensively address firearm injury at the community level is an on-demand, scalable educational model built on a health framework that capitalizes on a common vision of health, safety, and responsible firearm ownership. Such education would help individuals anticipate, recognize, and lessen the risk of firearm misuse and injury. Myriad precedents for this type of education already exist within both health and firearm training pedagogies. Developing an integrated curriculum would require cross-sector relationships between health and firearm community stakeholders and also serve as an exemplary model for building consensus on a traditionally divisive topic, influencing the national discourse and social norms concerning firearm ownership and its fundamental relationship with health.

Learning Objectives:
  1. Understand how a public health approach to firearm injury prevention requires integrating medical, law enforcement, and firearm stakeholders into a collaborative alliance. 
  2. Learn where consensus among healthcare professionals and firearm experts exists regarding the mental, physical, and social health factors that influence firearm access and use. 
  3. Understand the opportunities for collaborative education and become proficient with a communication strategy for discussing firearm misuse and related injuries with diverse populations.

avatar for Christopher Barsotti, MD

Christopher Barsotti, MD

Co-founder, AFFIRM at the Aspen Institute
Christopher Barsotti, MD, is the co-founder and former CEO of the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a non-profit organization established in 2017 with the goal of reducing firearm injuries in the United States through health-based, non-partisan... Read More →

Thursday December 7, 2023 11:20am - 11:50am PST
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