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Four Ex-Surgeons General Urge New SG Report On Gun Violence

A group of the former U.S. top doctors have taken the unprecedented step of asking President Biden to green-light a Surgeon General’s Report on gun violence. They say the move is long overdue, and that it would generate a renewed push to treat gun violence as a public health issue, The Trace reports. In a letter to the White House on Wednesday, 10 years after the Sandy Hook school shooting, four former surgeons general implored Biden to direct current Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to prepare a report that would explore the causes of and potential solutions to gun violence in the U.S., an epidemic with an annual death toll that eclipsed 48,000 for the first time in 2021. “There is little question that firearm violence is a public health crisis,” the letter to Biden reads. “And yet, unlike for homelessness, opioids or other determinants of health, there has never been a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on gun violence in America. Not one.”


Surgeon General’s reports have a long history of defining the national conversation around public health crises and influencing the ways in which federal agencies and state and local public health officials address those crises. The landmark publications are rare and typically reserved for pressing public health challenges that demand immediate national attention, such as one about cigarettes that established tobacco products as a serious health risk. Other reports have covered alcohol, drugs, mental health, and suicide. Though several prominent physicians and members of Congress have called for surgeons general to commission a report on gun violence, the letter is perhaps the most high-profile request and the one with the most credibility. The signatories included Dr. Antonia Novello; Dr. Joycelyn Elders; Dr. David Satcher; and Dr. Richard Carmona; who served as surgeons general under Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The former surgeons general, who formed a Surgeons General Consortium, originally drafted the letter in early 2021. Surgeon General’s Reports are not authored by the surgeon general or their staff alone. Instead, the surgeon general convenes dozens of subject matter experts, medical professionals, and advocates.

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