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J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2012 Feb;23(1):7-19. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2012.0015.

Firearms, youth homicide, and public health.

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  • 1Meharry Medical College, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Nashville, TN 37205, USA.


Homicide is seven times as common among U.S. non-Hispanic Black as among non-Hispanic White youth ages 15 to 24 years. In 83% of these youth homicides, the murder weapon is a firearm. Yet, for more than a decade, the national public health position on youth violence has been largely silent about the role of firearms, and tools used by public health professionals to reduce harm from other potential hazards have been unusable where guns are concerned. This deprives already underserved populations from the full benefits public health agencies might be able to deliver. In part, political prohibitions against research about direct measures of firearm control and the absence of valid public health surveillance are responsible. More refined epidemiologic theories as well as traditional public health methods are needed if the U.S. aims to reduce disparate Black-White youth homicide rates.

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