Public health

Small arms and light weapons are a public health problem: they are a preventable cause of widespread death, injury and suffering.

In some countries, small arms violence is the leading cause of death among certain populations. Public health and medical professionals view gun violence as a problem that can be reduced using strategies successfully employed against other societal health problems (such as smoking-related illness and motor vehicle injuries)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends restricting access to firearms as part of its Violence & Injury Prevention program.

Latest news

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), leading members of the IANSA Public Health Network, are using the Week of Action to highlight the public health aspects of small arms:

In the US, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and an alliance of physicians have filed a lawsuit against a new law in the state of Florida that restricts doctors from talking to patients about the risks of a gun in the home.

On 21 May, the Southern Sudan Action Network on Small Arms and IKV Pax Christi held a joint workshop for members of the state legislative assembly in Upper Nile State, Southern Sudan.

Reducing access to firearms significantly reduces the risk of suicide and saves lives, according to an article by the Nevada County Public Health Department and the Nevada County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

In the US, the state legislature of Florida recently approved a Bill that would penalise physicians for asking parents if there is a gun kept in their home.

Latest resources

A summary report of the side event "Health, women and development and the Arms Trade Treaty", co-organised by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Most of the Health Ministers of the Americas signed this landmark 2008 declaration, recognising the impact of guns in injuries, murders and suicides, and recommending greater cooperation to reduce access to these weapons.

In most countries, there is little or no accurate information on the extent of gun injuries. These UN guidelines are designed to help researchers collect this information.

The EU office of the World Health Organisation compiles health-related data that incorporates gun injuries. Their database is a useful resource for researchers, especially epidemiologists.

Globally, there is very little information on the true costs of armed violence. This UN manual provides a methodology to allow national researchers to collect and analyse data on the costs of injuries, including gun injuries.