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Exploring Gun Violence: Public Health and Community Impact

June 6, 2024

Exploring Gun Violence: Public Health and Community Impact

Ask students: Is gun violence an issue that should be addressed by changes to laws and regulatory policies? Why or why not?


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By Patrick Britti

In September 2023, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) declared gun violence in Albuquerque and the surrounding Bernalillo County a public health emergency, mirroring similar declarations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration was accompanied by the immediate imposition of a 30-day ban on carrying firearms in public areas and state-owned property in the region. Gov. Lujan Grisham defended the move as a necessary step in protecting children; gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the United States.

The move was met by criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico, a state with relatively few prohibitions on firearm possession and carry. Several days after the emergency declaration, gun rights organizations filed lawsuits resulting in a judge temporarily preventing the new rules’ enforcement. Gov. Lujan Grisham narrowed the emergency measures to only temporarily prohibiting the carrying of firearms in Albuquerque-area public parks and playgrounds, a move which resulted in a federal judge allowing the rule to become effective in October.

Gun rights groups, such as the National Association for Gun Rights, and individuals filed lawsuits against the emergency declarations as unconstitutional. Plaintiffs and political critics of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s move have cited both the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen (2022). The Bruen case introduced a new way state regulations on firearm carry will be tested for constitutionality, limiting what both existing and new regulations can prohibit. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also voiced opposition to the rules as unconstitutional, though he stated he wanted stricter gun control. Opposition to the new rules, including the revised declaration prohibiting carry in only public parks and playgrounds, also reflects sentiment that the regulations prevent citizens from carrying a firearm for self-defense.

However, in the post-COVID environment, gun violence—particularly gun violence against children—has been increasingly treated as a public health crisis. Researchers at Tulane and Johns Hopkins Universities have studied this possible approach, and research released in 2023 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Violence Solutions recognized broad support for gun violence and public health solutions. Support was found among 61.8 percent of gun owners and 54.4 percent of Republicans for publicly funded programs that include conflict mediation and other social services. The researchers’ recommendations also emphasized restricting public carry of firearms, which they considered a primary impact of gun violence.

Tulane’s research noted that certain gun control measures—such as expanding prohibitions on firearm purchases by domestic abusers—may have a significant impact. The research also identified approaches unrelated to gun control measures that could reduce gun violence, such as beautification programs that develop vacant properties and improve societal wellness. Tulane’s research praised Advanced Peace, a California organization that practices violence interruption. Violence interruption is a set of practices that prevent cyclical violence by focusing on expanding community resources for individuals at heightened risk of perpetrating gun violence.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is gun violence an issue in your community? Does this issue impact you and people you care about? How? 
  2. Is gun violence an issue that should be addressed by changes to laws and regulatory policies? Why or why not? 
  3. Do you believe gun violence should be treated as a public health concern? Why or why not? What is the most compelling argument against your position?
  4. If gun violence is treated as a public health concern, should public policies emphasize gun control (e.g. restrictions on gun ownership) or community reform? 


  1. Featured Image Credit: Boston University’s School of Public Health
  2. Tulane University: Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue
  3. National Public Radio: One Way to Prevent Gun Violence? Treat It As a Public Health Issue
  4. Johns Hopkins University: Center for Gun Violence Solutions
  5. National Public Radio: Some Big Health Care Policy Changes Are Hiding In The Federal Spending Package
  6. Scientific American: Gun Violence Is an Epidemic; Health Systems Must Step Up

Addressing Gun Violence

Find free K-12 lesson plans and resources for educators, school staff and community members on gun laws, the second amendment, government debates and obstacles, gun violence, and action tools.

Republished with permission from Close Up

Close Up
Close Up is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that educates and inspires young people to become informed and engaged citizens. Close Up is the only civic education program that serves every segment of society, actively seeking to provide opportunities for all high school and middle school... See More

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