Public health

Small arms and light weapons are a public health problem: they are a preventable cause of widespread death, injury and suffering.

In some countries, small arms violence is the leading cause of death among certain populations. Public health and medical professionals view gun violence as a problem that can be reduced using strategies successfully employed against other societal health problems (such as smoking-related illness and motor vehicle injuries)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends restricting access to firearms as part of its Violence & Injury Prevention program.

Latest news

On 6-7 September, nearly 300 experts on violence prevention from more than 60 countries met in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss progress on WHO's Global Campaign for Violence Prevention and the way ahead.

A pediatrician from Florida explains why she is opposed to a new law banning doctors in the state from asking patients questions about gun ownership in an article published in the New York Times.

Opportunities for state-level action to reduce gun violence are explored by Garen Wintemute in a new article published by the American Public Health Association.

This autumn presents several opportunities to highlight our work on the small arms issue.

Stray bullets killed or injured at least 317 people in the US between March 2008 and February 2009, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Latest resources

A summary report of the side event "Health, women and development and the Arms Trade Treaty", co-organised by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Most of the Health Ministers of the Americas signed this landmark 2008 declaration, recognising the impact of guns in injuries, murders and suicides, and recommending greater cooperation to reduce access to these weapons.

In most countries, there is little or no accurate information on the extent of gun injuries. These UN guidelines are designed to help researchers collect this information.

The EU office of the World Health Organisation compiles health-related data that incorporates gun injuries. Their database is a useful resource for researchers, especially epidemiologists.

Globally, there is very little information on the true costs of armed violence. This UN manual provides a methodology to allow national researchers to collect and analyse data on the costs of injuries, including gun injuries.