Gun Safety Education for High School Students
When most people think about gun violence they think about the tragic mass shootings that the media cover periodically in our country. What they may not realize is that mass shootings account for less than 1% of gun deaths. Gun deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in half the states in the country, including Washington State.
From a health standpoint, gun violence is particularly relevant to high school students. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in this group and is most often an impulsive act, with 70% acting within an hour of deciding to hurt themselves. Attempted suicides using guns are almost always lethal, while all other methods combined are less than 10% lethal.
Unfortunately, the conversation on gun violence in this country is one of polarization, pitting “gun control” advocates against “gun rights” advocates in a shouting match that overlooks common interests between many responsible gun owners and medical professionals, who agree that we can make our schools and communities safer by treating gun violence as a public health issue. The perception of firearm injury as a political, rather than health issue, has hampered the application of public health tools aimed at reducing death and injuries.
We at Washington CeaseFire focus on the high school population for two reasons: one, there is an important lesson in health to be learned. We discuss how public health professionals think about community health and go about promoting safety and saving lives. Washington State needs informed citizens who can make choices that will lead to safer, healthier communities. Two, gun violence is an unfortunate reality in our society, and there are practical, important steps students can take to keep themselves, friends, and their families safe and healthy.
We present evidence-based facts about gun violence to high school students, without embellishment or a political agenda. The goal of our program is to inform students and give them tools to make safe decisions. Since 2017, with the help of a grant from the King County Academy of Family Physicians, we have reached over 3000 students in grades 9-12 at several local high schools. The presentation has been vetted by Lisa Love, director of health curricula for Seattle Public Schools. And, it has been enthusiastically received by students, teachers, and administrators. One student asked after class, “Why haven’t we been taught this material before?”
If you are a student, a parent, a teacher, administrator, or just a concerned citizen who would like to learn more about this free program, please contact me:
Gregory Engel MD MPH
Washington CeaseFire Board Member