Gun Violence Is a Public Health Crisis

US President Barack Obama presents a Citizens Medal to the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Lauren Rousseau on
US President Barack Obama presents a Citizens Medal to the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Lauren Rousseau on February 15, 2013 during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

America is facing a public health crisis. One child dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States. This is an epidemic. We, as pediatricians and mothers, refuse to be silent. Our collective horror when six-and seven-year-olds were gunned down in their elementary school in Newtown compels us to demand change now.

Americans must set aside political agendas and tackle this as we do other public health issues, using research to guide our actions. Even before the tragedy in Newtown, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement that recommended a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and universal background checks. Study after study has shown that states and countries with stricter gun legislation have fewer deaths from firearms.

To fight other causes of childhood mortality, physicians and public health experts have made recommendations based on research, and when these have been implemented, death rates have decreased significantly. One of many examples is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When studies showed that placing infants to sleep on their backs reduced the risk of SIDS, the Back to Sleep campaign was launched in 1994 and overall SIDS rates declined by more than 50%. We have similarly been able to reduce death rates from motor vehicle accidents, fires, and drowning by between 31% and 52% over the last 20 years.

But guns are different. Physicians and public health experts had recommended universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and limitations on high-capacity ammunition magazines well before Newtown. They understood that we can reduce childhood gun injuries and death just as we have reduced pediatric deaths from other leading causes. Tragically, because of political infighting, we as a nation have ignored these recommendations. As a result guns continue to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.

For this to change we must all come together to demand action - moms and dads, sons and daughters, Republicans and Democrats. People across the nation must insist on commonsense gun legislation from our elected representatives and refuse to accept a status quo that makes even our elementary schools unsafe.

It is time for us all to recognize gun violence as the public health crisis it is. It is time to demand action from our legislators. The Children's Defense Fund estimates that 2,391 children have been shot by guns since the 113th Congress convened on January 3, 2013. Every day that we continue to tolerate inaction from our representatives more children die.

Heidi Román and Michelle Sandberg are pediatricians in San Jose, CA and members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.