Thinking About Las Vegas

This latest mass shooting, in which 59 people were killed and 500 wounded in Las Vegas, is distressing—and it won’t be the last. Again we find it incredible that this can be allowed to happen.

And again we are reminded of the unique position of the United States compared to most other countries, our astronomically higher numbers of gunshot deaths and the financial and emotional costs they exact. As I wrote in my February 2016 editorial on gun violence, “firearms accounted for 417,583 deaths—253,638 suicides and 163,945 homicides between 2003–2013.”

There’s more information about gun violence and the dismaying number of injuries and deaths among children in our report in the September issue. And a study just published in Health Affairs puts the annual cost of emergency and inpatient care for firearm injuries at $2.8 billion.

The numbers of deaths and injuries we can measure. The sense of helplessness and frustration, and the creeping sense of anxiety we experience as we go into public spaces, are more invidious.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but the first step seems obvious: we must acknowledge we have a clear threat to public health, continue to research the topic, and begin a frank discussion of steps to take to mitigate the threat.

We’ve talked about and dealt with deaths from smoking, alcohol, motor vehicles, and drugs, all of which cause or are implicated in thousands of deaths each year. Yet somehow we can’t seem to address deaths caused by firearms—according to nearly all existing research, as much a public health problem as other social and environmental factors. It’s dumbfounding.

2017-10-07T08:35:43+00:00 October 6th, 2017|Nursing, Public health|3 Comments
Editor-in-chief, AJN


  1. Tom Campbell October 8, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Each year families from Newtown, CT hold a Vigil in DC with families from across the nation who also have been victims of gun Violence. On the first anniversary of Sandy Hook we commemorated the 33,000 killed and the 75,000 wounded that year. On the 5th anniversary this coming December we will be remembering the 150,000 gun deaths and the 350,000 non fatal shooting in the 5 years since Sandy Hook. We have to be single issue voters until our representatives at every level of government understand that their jobs are not secure until they pass responsible, comprehensive legislation to secure the health and safety of their constituents.

  2. Wendie Howland October 6, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    We have to make NRA money a litmus test in the way other issues have been. At every press conference, town meeting, meet-and-greet, media interviews, we must ask, “How much money have you accepted from the NRA?” Make them tell you. Then vote. I read somewhere that 1:4 women voters are RNs. Vote, for public health.

    Here’s the answer to that question. Share it widely.

  3. Madeleine Mysko October 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for this strong, focused thinking on an issue that, as you point out, isn’t going to go away. I agree that we need to acknowledge gun violence as a particular threat to the health of this nation in comparison to other nations. As health professionals, we need to advocate for disciplined research. Unfortunately, for years the NRA has lobbied, successfully, against government-sanctioned research on gun violence as a threat to the health of Americans. We are sadly lacking in evidence to support policy decisions. Concerned health professionals need to step up, contact their representatives in Congress, and demand that this tragic epidemic be made a priority.

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