Gun Violence is a Public Health Emergency: a Threat to Safety is a Threat to Health

As a coalition dedicated to ensuring all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or identity, have access to safe, equitable, and affordable health care, we understand that health extends far beyond access to doctors, preventative care, and medicines. Health is also measured by access to resources and opportunities, and systemic divestment in communities of color across the nation have created huge disparities in health outcomes.  

Since the beginning of 2021, there have been more than 145 mass shootings in the United States. According to the American Public Health Association, gun violence is the leading cause of premature death in the United States, with more than 38,000 people losing their life to gun violence each year. Furthermore, the premature death rate in young Black men (defined as up to 20-years-old) is more than double the rate of their white counterparts.

Gun violence is a public health emergency and must be dealt with as such. The many faces of gun violence may disguise the fact that it is preventable. Whether it be mass shootings, state sanctioned killings by police, or community violence, a threat to safety is a threat to health. While these various forms of gun violence are related, the power dynamics inherent to each differ and must be uniquely addressed. Race, religion, income, gender, sexuality, disability, or citizenship status should not impact your likelihood to experience violence. Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) envisions a world where all communities have the resources they need to thrive without fear of violence based on racism, xenophobia, or any other form of oppression.

We cannot grow numb to the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our cities, state, and nation. We cannot turn a blind eye to the number of young people — particularly young Black men — who have lost their lives to needless violence. We cannot remain silent in the face of a crisis impacting the physical and mental health of our neighbors. POCIL continues to call upon our legislators at the state and federal levels to address this epidemic with immediacy and drastic steps to end the senseless violence plaguing our communities.