September 25, 2023

This summer, the North Carolina Medical Journal (NCMJ) published a themed issue on violence prevention and reducing firearm injury and death in North Carolina. Scientists from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and across N.C. collaborated with other state, local and public health experts on a series of articles documenting the many common-sense community-based programs and people that are working to make firearm ownership safer in N.C. using evidence-based approaches to lower the probability of firearm-related injuries and deaths for North Carolinians of all ages.

Many of the articles were written in partnership with local and state practitioners in public health departments, emergency rooms, police departments and clinical care settings, reflecting the Gillings School’s long legacy of practice-engaged scholarship. The issue also includes a special article from Governor Roy Cooper on “Taking Action to Build a Safer North Carolina.”

“Firearm injuries are a serious health concern that can have a tragic impact on individuals and their loved ones. But like many injuries, they can be prevented with a public health approach that applies rigorous science to policy and community-based solutions,” said John Wiesman, DrPH, associate dean for practice at the Gillings School. “The Gillings School is proud to be part of a network of peers that share their knowledge and expertise with the ultimate goal of reducing the harm, anxiety and trauma that gun violence poses.”

Community leaders around N.C. are implementing programs and community actions that allow lawful owners of firearms to store, use and retrieve their legally owned firearms in a manner that helps their loved ones. In N.C., over half of all deaths involving firearms are suicides.

Several scholars from the Gillings School contributed to the issue, including:

Stephen Marshall, PhD, professor of epidemiology and director of UNC’s Injury Prevention Research Center

Reducing Firearm Injuries and Deaths: A Comprehensive Approach

“We Can Make Ownership Safer” – A Conversation with ECU Trauma Surgeon Eric Toschlog About Preventing Firearm Injury and Death

Anna Waller, ScD, professor of emergency medicine and adjunct associate professor of health behavior

Firearm-Related Injury and Death in North Carolina: Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lucas Neuroth, doctoral student in epidemiology, and Lois Johnson, MPH, data analyst and advisor at the North Carolina Institute for Public Health

Emergency Department Visits Prior to Firearm Death: The NC LEADS Project

Gillings School experts will also be gathering with local public health leaders to further discuss this critical issue at “The Future of Violence Prevention in N.C.: Firearm Safety Pre-Conference” event on Sept. 26, ahead of the North Carolina Public Health Association’s annual Fall Educational Conference.

Both the scholarship and the conference build on the Governor’s task force on “Keeping Families and Communities Safe: Public Health Approaches to Reduce Violence and Firearm Misuse Leading to Injury and Death” – convened in 2022 by Governor Cooper and including Gillings faculty member Beth Moracco, PhD. This led to the formation of the NC S.A.F.E. initiative, a public awareness campaign to promote safe firearm storage in N.C., and the formation of the N.C. Office of Violence Prevention within the N.C. Dept of Public Safety.

Read the special NCMJ issue online.

Access the N.C. Violent Death Reporting System (VDRS) Data Dashboard

  • Check the NC-VDRS Data Dashboard to query and visualize data on overall violent deaths, homicides, suicides and firearm-related deaths.

NC S.A.F.E. Initiative — safe firearm storage

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