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American Public Health Association applauds President Obama for taking bold steps toward reducing gun violence

Statement from Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "On behalf of the American Public Health Association, I applaud President Barack Obama for moving forward on meaningful action toward reducing the incidence of gun violence in our nation. Following recommendations presented by the administration's inter-agency gun work group led by Vice President Joe Biden, the president's comprehensive plan includes a range of sensible and critically needed steps to prevent gun violence, a leading cause of preventable death in this country, including allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies to conduct gun violence research and improving mental health services to those who need it. We are pleased these measures are included in President Obama's set of executive orders that he signed to take effect immediately.

"Today's life-saving recommendations include a ban on sales of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, mandatory background checks for all gun purchases and measures to improve access to mental health in this country among other important proposals. They hold tremendous promise for creating safer, healthier communities and deserve our nation's unwavering support.

"There is an irrefutable link between access to guns and increased homicides. Every year, more than 30,000 people are killed in the U.S. from firearms at a cost of billions of dollars in health expenditures. Yet, death from firearms is not inevitable. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary that shook our nation to its core last year could have been prevented. For too long we as a nation have failed to take on the devastating problem of gun violence in our communities and we can wait no longer.

"If we want real change and a reduction in harm caused by gun violence, we have to think and act differently about reducing gun violence. We cannot arrest our way out of this public health crisis. We cannot afford additional lives lost. Nor can we afford to turn a blind eye to the serious gaps in our local, state and federal gun policies and still expect that our nation's children are safe in school, on our city streets or in our homes. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, we have an obligation to set stronger policies that ensure this unthinkable act of violence never threatens our communities again.

"The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted, which is why we must take a comprehensive public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe. We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research and expanding access to mental health services to those who most need it. Today's proposal represents a real opportunity to make long-lasting progress on reducing gun violence. Congress must also get to work on real action.

"APHA and our members across the country are poised to work with Congress and the White House as these recommendations move forward, to ensure evidence-based public health principles are at the heart of any efforts to reduce gun violence-related injury and death."

Immediately following the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary, APHA issued a letter to the White House in support of Obama's leadership and vision on the issue of gun violence.

For more about APHA, visit www.apha.org.

Founded in 1872, the APHA is the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. The association aims to protect all Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States. APHA represents a broad array of health providers, educators, environmentalists, policy-makers and health officials at all levels working both within and outside governmental organizations and educational institutions. More information is available at www.apha.org.

Contact: Audrey Pernik
202-777-2509
audrey.pernik@apha.org

SOURCE American Public Health Association

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