The Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Prevention

A Comprehensive Strategy for Safer Communities


Gun violence has a cruel and destructive impact on the daily life of Texans. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States, and provisional data tells us that 543 Texas youth were killed in 2022. 

Gun violence is  a significant public health crisis in Texas and across the United States, with devastating consequences for communities. Public health experts advocate for a multifaceted response that addresses the root causes of gun violence and aims to prevent future violence and tragedy. This article explores the public health approach to gun violence prevention, highlighting its key principles, strategies, and impact on fostering safer communities.

Understanding the Public Health Approach:

The public health approach to gun violence prevention adopts a systematic and evidence-based framework by drawing upon principles typically applied in addressing other public health challenges such as infectious diseases and injury prevention. At its core, this approach recognizes gun violence as a preventable health issue and emphasizes the importance of collaboration among various sectors including healthcare, law enforcement, education, and local advocacy organizations.

Key Principles:

  • Surveillance and Data Collection: Gathering accurate and comprehensive data on gun-related incidents is fundamental for understanding the scope, trends, and risk factors associated with gun violence. This includes tracking firearm-related injuries, fatalities, and their circumstances to inform targeted interventions and policies.
  • Risk and Protective Factors: Identifying the individual, social, and environmental factors that contribute to gun violence helps in developing tailored prevention strategies. These factors may include:
    • access to firearms
    • socioeconomic disparities
    • community violence 
    • mental health issues
  • Prevention through Education and Awareness: Transitioning from understanding risk and protective factors to concrete statistics, it’s essential to recognize the alarming trends in firearm-perpetrated intimate partner homicides. Between 2011 and 2020, there was a 15% increase in firearm perpetrated intimate partner homicides in the U.S. and an 82% increase in Texas. Promoting public awareness about the risks of gun violence and responsible firearm ownership is essential for changing attitudes and behaviors. Education programs targeting both youth and adults can emphasize conflict resolution skills, safe storage practices, and the importance of seeking help for domestic violence concerns. In tandem with education programs, which emphasize conflict resolution skills and safe storage practices among youth and adults, it’s essential to address the concerning prevalence of firearm-related suicides in Texas. Nearly two-thirds of firearm deaths in Texas are due to suicide.
  • Policy Interventions: Implementing evidence-based policies aimed at reducing access to firearms among high-risk individuals and enhancing overall gun safety is crucial. 
    • This includes background checks on all gun sales, raising the age to 21 for purchase of semi-automatic rifles like AR-15s, safe storage laws, and firearm buyback programs.
  • Intervention and Treatment: Providing timely intervention and support services for individuals at risk of perpetrating or being victimized by gun violence is essential. This involves access to mental health services, substance abuse treatment, violence intervention programs, and trauma-informed care for survivors.

Strategies and Initiatives:

Several initiatives and strategies have been developed based on the public health approach to gun violence prevention:

  • Community-Based Violence Prevention Programs: Empowering municipalities to enact Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs. These initiatives focus on reducing interpersonal violence by establishing relationships with the people living in these communities who are at the highest risk of becoming victims, perpetrators  — or both — of violence. CVI utilizes a public health approach by creating an ecosystem of programs that work together to reduce violence. There are four primary intervention programs: hospital-based violence intervention, street outreach, targeted trauma-informed care, and group violence intervention.
  • Gun Violence Research: Investing in research to better understand the causes and consequences of gun violence and evaluate the effectiveness of prevention efforts. This includes studying the impact of various policies, interventions, and community-based programs on reducing gun-related harm.
  • Legislative Advocacy: Advocating for evidence-based policies at the local, state, and federal levels to strengthen gun safety regulations and reduce access to firearms among high-risk individuals. Public health professionals play a crucial role in shaping policy debates, conducting research, and providing data-driven recommendations to policymakers.

Impact and Challenges:

The public health approach to gun violence prevention has shown promise in reducing firearm-related injuries and fatalities in communities where it has been implemented effectively. However, we face significant barriers including political polarization, limited funding for research and prevention efforts, and resistance from pro-gun groups.


In conclusion, the public health approach offers a comprehensive and evidence-based framework for addressing the gun violence crisis in our country. On average, someone is killed with a gun every two hours in Texas. By focusing on prevention, intervention, and policy solutions, public health professionals, advocates, and policymakers can work together to create safer communities and protect the safety of all Texans. Collaborative efforts, informed by data and research, are essential for achieving meaningful progress in reducing gun violence and its devastating impact on society.

At Texas Gun Sense, one of our top priorities is advocating for Community Violence Intervention Programs that reduce gun violence for communities at highest risk. Black people are 6 times more likely to die by firearm than white people in Texas (this is an average of the years 2018-2021). This is why we co-lead the Texas Invest In Us Coalition in partnership with Community Justice Action Fund, a Black and Brown-led organization dedicated to ending gun violence in the most impacted communities. 

We are also partnering with UT School of Public Health researchers on gun safety research to prevent firearm suicide and other tragedies. We are working with a coalition of doctors, gun dealers, and veterans to expand temporary gun storage for Texans.

As we continue to strengthen the gun violence prevention ecosystem, empower networks of advocates across Texas, and champion measures that reduce the disproportionate impact of gun deaths, you can support our work by donating, volunteering, and pledging to support elected officials who fight for a safer Texas.

March 2024