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February 25, 2013

Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis in Chicago

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The city of Chicago is home to one of the highest gun violence rates of any U.S. city, and the numbers are only getting worse. Only two months into 2013 and the death rate from gun violence in the city is already higher than it was in 2012, which itself was 16  percent higher than the year before.

The spotlight has turned to Chicago after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., because of several high-profile incidences. Shirley Chambers, who had already lost 3 children to gun violence, lost a fourth to a shooting in January. Then, 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down near President Obama’s Chicago home just days after performing in his inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.

In order to stem the tide of violence, some like Dr. Michelle Gittler of Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, are pushing for gun violence to be treated as a public health crisis instead of merely a crime problem.

This is in part because the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, estimated in 2010 that the medical and work loss costs from firearms death and injury came to more than $68 billion dollars.
However, gun advocates think that the focus on guns as the problem is politically motivated.

Gun enthusiast Shaun Kranish said, “I really look at violence as violence no matter what object or tool or method is employed. And we do have a violence problem in this country, but it is a complex issue.”

The issue of guns has become even more divisive since Newtown, but as lawmakers and the public debate what to do about gun violence these next few months, the medical community here and across the country is likely to weigh in.


“I think even more than the direct physical effects of violence, these people are experiencing the stress of living in these communities with high rates of violence. And so it changes their other behaviors. So now they’re afraid to exercise. It contributes for diabetes and heart disease and such, because it limits what you feel like you can do in your community,” – Dr. Karen Sheehan, Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Warm up questions

1. Do you think gun violence is an issue?

2. What are some of the arguments for and against guns in the United States?

3. What do you know about gun laws in the United States? What is the Second Amendment?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think that treating gun violence as a public health problem is the right approach? Why or why not?

2. What do you think can help reduce gun violence rates here in America?

3. How do you think the government should balance its duty to keep the public safe and still honor the Second Amendment?

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