Chicago officials praise US surgeon general declaration of gun violence as public health crisis

Craig Wall Image
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Chicago officials praise gun violence public health crisis declaration
The US surgeon general's gun violence public health crisis declaration is being hailed by Chicago officials.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago officials are hailing the U.S. surgeon general's decision Tuesday to declare gun violence a public health crisis.

It comes as gun violence becomes the leading cause of death for young people.

ABC7 Chicago is now streaming 24/7. Click here to watch

For too many Chicago communities, the trauma and tragedy of gun violence is a part of everyday life.

On Tuesday, the nation's top doctor called for a new approach to combat it.

"My hope is this advisory, is that we can actually take it out of the realm of politics and put it into the realm of public health, which is where it belongs," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. "Many people may not be aware this is now the leading cause of death among kids and teens. As a parent, I strongly feel that should increase the prioritization of this issue, as well."

Those on the front line of treating people directly and indirectly impacted by gun violence see the declaration as critical.

"It's absolutely welcome and crucial because, fundamentally, the surgeon general has called out a common value that we all share, which is we have to keep children safe. We have to keep community members safe," said Dr. John Rich, director of the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity.

The surgeon general called for more violence prevention programs, universal background checks for gun purchases and a ban on the sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines for civilian use.

Rich likens the approach to when the surgeon general took on cigarettes and smoking 60 years ago, calling them a public health danger.

"The same approach can be taken with firearm violence. We need to have better data and understand what the risks are," he said. "At the federal levels we can also have investments in education to address those root causes."

Pastor Anthony Williams, who for years has been advocating for making violence a public health crisis, is hoping that with the surgeon general raising awareness, communities might become safer.

"Let's not talk about gun violence. Let's talk about violence as a disease. And the question is who wants a disease? I don't think anybody wants a disease. Violence is a disease," said Williams, with King International Ministries. "When people start talking about gun violence to me, I shun because the big picture is the disease of gun violence. And this disease is plaguing us all."

At an unrelated event about early childcare investments, the governor said it's important to put a new emphasis on violence prevention.

"I think one of the reasons for a declaration like this is to remind people that early intervention, just like with health care, early intervention, what do we say? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Gov. JB Pritzker said. "That is true also, when it comes to gun violence."

Also on Tuesday, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced it is now accepting proposals for hospital-based violence prevention plans. The city is investing $3 million toward the effort.

INTERACTIVE SAFETY TRACKER | Track crime and safety in your neighborhood