OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Last month, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during an interview that gun violence in the United States had become an epidemic and that it was time for the federal government to treat it as such.
“Something has to be done about this,” Walensky said in an exclusive interview with CNN that was published in late August. “Now is the time — it’s pedal to the metal time.
“The scope of the problem is just bigger than we’re even hearing about, and when your heart wrenches every day you turn on the news, you’re only hearing the tip of the iceberg,” Walensky noted further. “We haven’t spent the time, energy, and frankly the resources to understand this problem because it’s been so divided.”
Walensky’s comments last month followed similar sentiments from President Joe Biden in April when he said the country is facing “a gun violence public health epidemic.”
“I swore to the President and to this country that I would protect your health. This is clearly one of those moments, one of those issues that is harming America’s health,” Walensky told CNN.
That time has come, CNN noted further:
Decades after lobbying pressure and politics all but stopped gun violence research, Walensky’s plan is to restart that research and identify effective solutions.
For example, the CDC is spending $2,224,482 to fund a surveillance mechanism that tracks, in nearly real-time, the number of people coming into emergency rooms with nonfatal gunshot wounds. It collects data on the intent of the injury — documenting, for example, whether it was self-inflicted, unintentional, or related to an assault.
The agency is also spending $8,085,935 on 18 research projects to prevent gun-related violence and injuries.
“We don’t even know who enters the emergency department, in most places, as a result of firearm injury — we don’t even know it,” Walensky said.
The CDC’s website has a section for “Firearm Violence” that states:
Firearm violence is a serious public health problem in the United States that impacts the health and safety of Americans. Important gaps remain in our knowledge about the problem and ways to prevent it. Addressing these gaps is an important step toward keeping individuals, families, schools, and communities safe from firearm violence and its consequences.
Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland discussed gun violence initiatives in June as well.
“Crime has — historically rises during the summer. And as we emerge from this pandemic with the country opening back up again, the traditional summer’s — summer spike may even be more pronounced than it usually would be,” Biden said at the White House.
“For folks at home, here’s what you need to know: I’ve been at this a long time and there are things we know that work that reduces gun violence and violent crime, and things that we don’t know about. But things we know about: Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important; a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — no one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50, even up to 100 rounds unless you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests or something; community policing and programs that keep neighborhoods safe and keep folks out of trouble,” he said.
At the time, Garland announced new initiatives being taken by the Justice Department regarding gun law enforcement:
We are now taking further steps. First, we will hold gun dealers that break the rules accountable for their actions. Most federally licensed firearms dealers to operate legally in selling guns to individuals who have passed background checks. But those dealers that willfully violate the law increase the risk that guns will fall into the wrong hands.
“Second, we are seeking funding to increase ATF’s dealer inspection capacity and improve its effectiveness,” he added. “Starting today, ATF will make clear to investigators in every field division that, as they prioritize inspections, they must consider the extent to which firearms sold by a dealer are later used in criminal activity.”
Garland also said the DoJ would be “launching a concerted effort to crack down on gun traffickers.”