The nation’s top pubic health agency is taking on gun violence as a “serious public health threat,” spending about $10 million to restart research and fund tracking of gunshot wounds while trying to find common ground with wary gun owners, CNN reported Friday.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told the news outlet though she worries that just saying the word guns or talking about firearms could anger many Americans, she’s more worried “if we don’t do anything about it.”
"This is one of the leading killers of our young people in this country. It's a high priority,” she told CNN.
The effort follows a summer of violence; the country is averaging 200 deaths and 472 injuries by guns every weekend according to an analysis done by the Gun Violence Archive for CNN.
"The scope of the problem is just bigger than we're even hearing about… you're only hearing the tip of the iceberg," Walensky told CNN. "We haven't spent the time, energy and frankly the resources to understand this problem because it's been so divided."
"I swore to the President and to this country that I would protect your health,” she added. “This is clearly one of those moments, one of those issues that is harming America's health.”
Walensky’s plans include spending $2 million to fund tracking the number of people coming into emergency rooms with nonfatal gunshot wounds. The agency is also spending $8 million on 18 research projects to prevent gun-related violence and injuries, CNN reported.
"My job is to understand and evaluate the problem, to understand the scope of the problem, to understand why this happens and what are the things that can make it better - to research that, to scale that up, to evaluate it and to make sure that we can integrate it into communities," Walensky told CNN.
"We have a lot of work to do in every single one of those areas because we haven't done a lot of work as a nation in almost any of them."
But in restarting gun violence research, Walensky said she wants the CDC to find common ground with gun owners.
"Let's agree, we don't want people to die. Let's just agree there. What can we do to stop people from dying, and what can we do to stop people from being injured," she said.
Walensky appears determined not to anger gun rights activists, CNN reported.
"This is not a conversation about having them or not having them. This is a conversation about how we can make them being here safe," she told the news outlet.
She said she wants gun owners to be part of the solution.
"Come to the table. Join us in the conversation," she said. "I want you to teach me what you have done to make your gun safe, and then I want you to teach everybody else."
"We cannot understand the research of firearm violence, firearm injury, without embracing wholeheartedly, the firearm owning community," she added. "I really do believe that the population of people who wants to own a gun doesn't want people hurt by them. I want them at the table."
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