Harborview chief of trauma says a public health approach needed to address gun violence

Deaths from firearm violence higher than motor vehicle crashes in 2017

  • Monday, August 5, 2019 4:20pm
  • News
Dr. Eileen Bulger/Courtesy Photo, Harborview

Dr. Eileen Bulger/Courtesy Photo, Harborview

By UW Medicine | Newsroom

Following a deadly weekend, there are nationwide calls to address these mass shootings. But firearm violence happens every day.

“I think it’s important to recognize that mass shootings represent 1 percent of the firearms problem in this country,” says Dr. Eileen Bulger, chief of trauma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, in an UW Medicine | Newsroom article. “And it’s a horrible thing that we have to solve, but we have to tackle the big picture, the 40,000 people that die every year in the country from firearm violence. We can’t forget them.”

In 2017, the number of deaths from firearm injuries in the U.S. exceeded that from motor vehicle crashes for the first time.

There were 39,773 firearm deaths or 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 38,659 vehicle traffic deaths or 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

“If you look at the numbers, this last year is the first year that there were more deaths in the United States from firearm injury than motor vehicle crashes,” Bulger said. “Years ago, motor vehicle crashes by far and away were the leading cause of death from traumatic injury.

“If you think about a problem like that from a comprehensive public health approach then you can see if you study the problem, if you invest in research to study the problem and you develop interventions based on that research then you can have a dramatic effect. We have cut the deaths and disabilities from motor vehicle crashes dramatically since the 1960s. We can do the same thing with this problem if we focus on it in that way.”

Bulger, also a professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says the American College of Surgeons worked with groups to develop a list of recommendations that can make an impact on firearm violence. She explains taking a public health approach to the issue in the way car crashes and smoking were addressed could be a solution.

“I think that if we take a public health approach, if we think of it the way we thought about motor vehicle crashes, or about how we’ve dealt with smoking or other public health problems, then I think we have a real opportunity to do something. I think throwing up our hands and saying oh we’re never going to solve this because it’s just politics is a mistake.

“It’s just sadness for our society it’s sadness that we haven’t solved the problem. And I think it redoubles our efforts to think about how we can address the problem of gun violence not just for mass shootings but for the everyday events we see in our trauma centers.”

Bulger said the politics need to be removed from the issue.

“There’s a tremendous amount we can do if we just sort of recognize that there’s an approach to this that’s not political,” she said. “Not challenging the Second Amendment but how can we identify the root causes of violence, manage those, and how can we make firearm ownership as safe as possible?”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

The COVID-19 outbreak closed schools statewide last spring and has led to many school districts opting for remote learning in the fall. Pictured: A Decatur High School staff member takes cover from the rain while celebrating the graduating class of 2020 in June. File photo
Study: Virus cases must drop for state’s schools to safely reopen

Bringing students back in any capacity will lead to new infections, the report found.

Alki Beach. Photo by Alabastro Photography
Heat wave is on the way this weekend

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-90s on Sunday.

Puget Sound Fire call report

Type, number of incidents

Kent Police Blotter: July 30-Aug. 9

Shots fired incidents dominate list

Protesters of fatal police shootings rally at Auburn Justice Center

Demands include for city of Auburn to cut its police budget by half

Free food boxes to be distributed Aug. 14-15 in Kent

Event at ShoWare Center parking lot

Two lanes of Pacific Highway South in Kent to close nights of Aug. 17-21 and Aug. 24-28

Crews to do utility work for Sound Transit light rail extension

Group plans petition drive to recall Kent School Board members

Claims board has not ‘performed their duties in accordance with the laws of the state’

Federal Way postpones first day of school to Sept. 8

District is preparing for a possible $22.6M revenue loss due to declining enrollments, reduction in funding.

Most Read