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Biden Wants Hospitals To Report Data on Gunshot Wounds

The Biden administration is enlisting America’s doctors to help combat gun violence.

About 160 health-care executives and officials have been invited to the White House today and Friday to promote public health solutions to the epidemic. A top priority, I’m told: The White House wants hospital emergency departments to collect more data about gunshot injuries their physicians treat, as well as routinely counsel patients about the safe use of firearms.

It’s part of the president’s strategy to build support for gun-safety measures outside the Capitol, where legislation to more strictly regulate firearms can’t overcome mainly Republican opposition. Biden’s already recruited educators to talk to parents about safe gun storage and community workers to help at-risk youth.

“The president has been clear: This is a public health crisis. So, to solve it, we need the leaders from the health-care sector,” Rob Wilcox, a deputy director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, told me in a phone interview. “Those are the leaders that run the health systems and hospitals that we go to for treatment, and it’s those doctors, nurses, practitioners on the front lines.”

Health experts have long described gun violence as a public health crisis, one that disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic residents in poor neighborhoods. Biden’s election opponent, former president Donald Trump, has assailed his gun policies and warned the National Rifle Association in May that “if the Biden regime gets four more years, they are coming for your guns.”

In 2022, more than 48,000 people were killed by guns in the United States, or about 132 people a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 200-plus Americans are injured each day, according to estimates.

Surveys show most Americans — across political affiliations and regardless of gun ownership — support policies that could reduce violence.

Biden’s initiative isn’t just about messaging. It’s also about money. Unlike America’s other deadly health threats — such as cancer, HIV and automobile crashes — limited federal dollars fund gun violence research, in part because of politics.

In 1996, a Republican-controlled Congress cut federal funding for gun safety research at the CDC, essentially shifting the burden to the private sector and academia — with a fraction of the previous budget. In 2019, Congress reversed course and has since agreed every year to allocate $25 million to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health for gun research.

Health researchers say more timely and comprehensive data about gun injuries and deaths would give them a better understanding of trends behind gun violence — and what policies might prevent it.

The White House is asking state and local health departments, health systems and hospitals to increase timely data collection on emergency department visits for firearm-related injuries to “support state and local jurisdictions in identifying and responding to emerging public health problems,” Wilcox said.

The goal is “to inform prevention efforts,” he said.

The data will cover fatal and nonfatal injuries. Existing CDC data focuses on deaths, while its data on injuries is limited. For instance, one person was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory parade, but the CDC data probably will not count the roughly two dozen other people who were injured.

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KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.

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