people on Capitol steps holding gun violence prevention signsThe gun violence epidemic in America got worse in 2016. As of October, more than 40 people every day have died in the U.S. by gunfire, according to the nonpartisan research group Gun Violence Archive. That’s three more deaths every day than in 2015 and seven more than in 2014.

At Tuesday’s Annual Meeting session, “Firearm-related injuries,” state and national public health experts tackled the problem’s many layers and shared evidence that solutions hinge on two overarching factors: data and compromise.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to eliminate gun ownership in this country, so let’s start from there,” said moderator Linda Degutis, APHA past-president and director at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. “We need to truly open up discussions with responsible gun owners. Let’s think about what we can agree on — and that’s how we can get further.”

Renowned gun violence researcher Daniel Webster took care of the data. Pulling from a variety of state and national statistics, Webster shared correlations between gun legislation and violence, including a:

  • 6 percent to 19 percent reduction in intimate-partner homicide in states with domestic violence restraining order restrictions;
  • 40 percent reduction in firearm homicide rates in Connecticut following implementation of a handgun permit-to-purchase law; and
  • 14 percent increase in Missouri’s murder rate following the state’s repeal of a permit-to-purchase law.

“High standards for gun ownership equal less violence,” said Webster, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And ‘guns everywhere’ policies equal more gun violence.”

In Colorado, officials are taking a different approach to reduce suicide, which causes nearly 80 percent of the state’s gun deaths, compared to 60 percent nationally. Nearly 1,100 state residents committed suicide in 2015 — the highest number ever recorded in the state.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Colorado Gun Shop Project” — which originated from a New Hampshire model — convenes gun shop owners, firing range officers, firearm safety course instructors and public health workers to share suicide prevention ideas. Notably, gun shop owners are asked not to sell firearms to patrons who may be demonstrating suicidal warning signs.

According to program coordinator Sarah Brummett, there’s one key caveat to their work.

“We don’t talk politics — ever,” she said. “And it works. Suicide professionals and gun retailers are at the table together, and a lot more shops are coming around.

“Ninety percent of people who survive a suicide attempt will not go on to die from a later attempt. So we know that recovery is not only possible; it’s probable. But recovery is not possible with a firearm … So we know that restricting someone’s access to a gun during a point of crisis can save a life.”