It seems unlikely some blue-ribbon commission would change the trajectory of gun injuries, up 180% in the East Bay compared to pre-pandemic, but some congressional representatives say a Surgeon General report could turn the tide like it did with cigarettes.

We’ve become somewhat numb to gun violence statistics in the mass shooting era, but this one is staggering. The East Bay’s Alameda Health System details, in the words of KTVU, that “In 2019, there were 283 gun-related injuries” treated in their five hospitals. But KTVU adds that “following the pandemic they've seen an alarming increase of more than 500 gun injuries a year with 547 in 2021 and 502 in 2022. So far, in 2023 they've had 247 victims hurt by gun injuries through July 6th.”

KTVU crunches these numbers to estimate a 180% increase in East Bay gun injuries compared to before the pandemic.

This is obviously not just an Oakland thing. But some Oakland lawmakers in Congress are calling for action, as KTVU notes in that same article that East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee co-authored a letter with Sen. Cory Booker calling for a U.S. Surgeon General report on the gun violence epidemic. Bay Area representatives Mark DeSaulnier, Zoe Lofgren, Kevin Mullin, Eric Swalwell, and Mike Thompson signed the letter as well.

“Gun violence is currently the leading cause of premature deaths among children and teens in the U.S.,” the full letter says. “The U.S. represents about 4% of the world’s population, but approximately 35% of global firearm suicides, making Americans 25 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than people in other high-income countries.”

The letter urges Department of Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy “to publish a Surgeon General report to uplift the urgency of addressing gun violence as a threat to our nation’s public health.” But would some bureaucratic Surgeon General report actually do anything to reduce gun violence? These lawmakers think that it could.

“There is ample precedent for a report of this nature, such as in 1964, when the late President Kennedy requested the Surgeon General to compile a report on smoking tobacco,” the letter points out. “This Surgeon General report punctured public consciousness, elevated the issue and led to countless health and commercial reforms.”

Image: Pew Research Center

And while we called out Oakland gun violence in this report, California is actually not that bad when it comes to gun fatalities. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, California has among the ten lowest gun death rates of all 50 U.S. states, which shows just how bad this wave of gun violence is.  

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Image: OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 3: Oakland police department spokeswoman Johnna Watson gives an update on the shooting that killed seven at Oikos University April 3, 2012 in Oakland, California. Six students and one employee died yesterday when a gunman opened fire at Christian-based Oikos University. Three other people were wounded. (Photo by Sarah Rice/Getty Images)