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Guns Need to Go the Way of Cigarettes, Says Loyola Surgeon

More than 70 Chicagoans were injured and 12 died due to gun violence during the extended July Fourth weekend compared with two killed and seven injured due to fireworks.

“I predicted more injuries from firearms not fireworks this Fourth of July and I am sorry to report that I was correct,” says Thomas Esposito, MD, MPH, chief of the division of trauma, surgical critical care and burns in the department of surgery at Loyola University Medical Center. “We have effectively educated people about the dangers of fireworks and curbed injury. Now we need to do the same for gun violence.”

More than 40% of the injuries occurred in the Austin and Garfield Park areas of Chicago, less than five miles from Maywood where Esposito is a trauma surgeon. “Not only innocent bystanders but very young children are being killed by gunfire, which is senseless and heartbreaking,” says Esposito who heads the only Level I Trauma Center in Illinois that is accredited by the American College of Surgeons.

Esposito considers gun violence a public health epidemic and offers a public health approach. “Gun violence is a complex, multifaceted problem and requires a complex, multifaceted strategy,” says the trauma surgeon, who also has earned a master’s degree in public health. “How did we decrease cigarette smoking? We raised the price of cigarettes exorbitantly, restricted access and usage, increased education, reduced advertising and promotion, restricted access by children and created a social stigma to smoking.” The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood appointed Esposito to a two-year term on the National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC) in 2012.

Did you know:
• The average hospital cost for a finger or limb amputation from fireworks is $15,600; for a gunshot wound it’s $540,000.
• Hand guns account for 80% of gun violence.
• More than 50% of shootings have alcohol involved, consumed either by the victim or shooter or both.
• Of deaths from gunfire in the home, 50% of victims knew their murderer, with only 20% related to home invasions and only 1% ruled justifiable homicides, i.e. in self defense.

“People have snuffed out their cigarettes; it is now time to snuff out gun violence rather than continue to have it snuff us out,” says Esposito.

— Source: Loyola University Health System