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Dem Lawmaker Pushes U.S. Surgeon General for Gun Violence Report

The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus’ health task force on Tuesday floated a bill calling for the country’s top medical officer to tackle the issue of gun violence.

“Gun violence kills 100 Americans each day in America,” Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

Kelly said Congress needs data in order to confront the epidemic, a need she cited as the impetus for her bill, H.R. 1114, that would require the surgeon general to submit to Congress an annual report on the effects of gun violence on public health.

“We have reports on the effects of Ebola, measles and other neurological disorders and we need a report on this, too,” she said. “It’s time for the surgeon general to do this report.”

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) speaks during an April 2 press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. regarding a bill that would require the U.S. surgeon general to issue an annual report on gun violence. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) speaks during an April 2 press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. regarding a bill that would require the U.S. surgeon general to issue an annual report on gun violence. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Kelly referred to a 1964 report on the physical effects of smoking released by then-Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, which stated that smoking posed a great risk of causing lung and laryngeal cancer in men, possible lung cancer in women and chronic bronchitis in both sexes.

The 1964 report has had far-reaching effects, including bans on cigarette advertising in the media and smoking in public spaces.

Kelly suggested that her legislation would ultimately have the same effect. The bill has 46 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

A number of current National Rifle Association (NRA) riders prohibits or hinders public health experts such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from examining gun violence as a public health threat and developing strategies to prevent gun-related deaths.

The NRA contributes to Republicans heavily and is unlikely to support anything it opposes.

“When the GOP controlled the Congress, it ignored my bill,” Kelly said.

Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Debbie Murcasel-Powell (D-Fla.) embraced Kelly’s legislation.

“This bill raises the awareness of gun violence,” said Thompson, who chairs the House’s Gun Violence Caucus. “This is a health epidemic and gun violence takes a tremendous toll on our community.”

Murcasel-Powell said there have been 751 incidents of gun violence nationwide so far this year, 49 of which have involved children.

“We need more research to put an end to this,” she said.

Dr. Andre Campbell, who practices at the San Francisco General Hospital and is a professor of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, said the surgeon general’s report should have data showing the racial breakdown of victims and perpetrators of gun violence.

“San Francisco is only 5 percent Black but 80 percent of the victims of gun violence are Black and brown,” Campbell said.

Kelly said mass shootings — incidents in which four or more people are killed — are occurring not just in large cities but in suburban and rural as well.

“You can be the victim of random gun violence playing the park,” she said. “It’s all over the place.”

Kelly’s bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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