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Podcast: The medical community’s role in promoting firearm safety


Pavan Somusetty, MD, and Garen Wintemute, MD, discuss what physicians can do to address escalating gun violence


Incidents of gun violence have become far too common in the United States in recent years. There have already been over 180 mass shootings in the United States in 2023 — the equivalent of more than 1 mass shooting a day so far. A new reality has emerged where violent acts involving firearms are now a part of everyday life. To help address this troubling trend, the medical community is taking important steps to better educate the public and build awareness around this complex issue.

In this episode of the Permanente Medicine Podcast, host Chris Grant, chief operating officer of The Permanente Federation, examines the relationship between gun violence and public health — what can be done to help our communities and how physicians can use their expertise to aid these efforts.

Grant is joined by 2 guests who share their valuable perspectives on firearm safety, violence prevention, and the mental health components at play in this national crisis.

  • Pavan Somusetty, MD, is a psychiatrist specializing in suicide prevention and chief of Mental Health for Northwest Permanente. He has advised Kaiser Permanente’s Task Force on Firearm Injury Prevention on strategies for suicide prevention, including safe firearm storage.
  • Garen Wintemute, MDis director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at University of California, Davis. He is an emergency medicine physician and a leading authority in the field of injury epidemiology and prevention of firearm violence.

We face the same mandate to prevent death from firearm violence that we face to prevent death from cancer or heart disease. If it kills people, it’s a health problem.

– Garen Wintemute, MD

As a health care provider, we can identify when patients are at risk, discuss their access to firearms, and how to safely store or remove their weapons.

– Pavan Somusetty, MD

Drs. Somusetty and Wintemute offer perspectives on gun violence through the lens of their specialties. In doing so, they contextualize why the medical community must play a critical role in reversing the rising trend of violent acts. They suggest ways to lead conversations with families about gun violence and share what gives them hope for a brighter future.

In this episode

3:04 Suicide as a patient safety issue and its impact on family

4:50 Intervening upstream to prevent firearm injuries

6:37 Why health care officials should get involved

7:50 Health care’s response to gun violence and the aftermath of tragedies

8:50 The effects of gun violence on health care workers

10:40 The epidemiology of mass shootings

11:59 Mental health initiatives to promote firearm safety

14:39 Underlying causes of firearm violence and how to break the cycle

15:38 Risks of easy access to firearms

18:03 Strategies to help clinicians lead gun safety conversations with families

23:40 Finding hope in efforts to address gun violence and firearm safety

Connect with Chris Grant on Twitter at @cmgrant and follow the UC Davis Violence Research Prevention Program at @UCDavisCVP.

Program notes

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