Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue

With the recent development of the OHSU Gun Violence Prevention Research Center, the GVPHI Advisory Committee is currently transitioning into an advisory board role for the Center. The Center carries on the research, education, and action goals of the GVPHI Initiative.

At OHSU, we are dedicated to healing others and advancing scientific knowledge. That’s why we must help address the gun violence crisis in Oregon and nationwide.

In 2016, we joined together with Portland State University, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, and community leaders and organizations across the Portland metro area to address gun violence as a public health issue.

Since then, tragic shootings have continued to expose gun violence as a sign of the social injustice and loss of hope that impact public health.

In Oregon and beyond, gun violence is killing Black and Indigenous people at a disproportionate rate. The killing of George Floyd in May 2020, and the protests that followed, made clear the racism and oppression that lead to violence. This violence often involves guns.

Gun violence in Oregon

Compared to white Oregonians, rates of gun death1 are:

  • 150% higher for American Indians or Alaska Natives.
  • 450% higher for Black Oregonians.

In the Portland metro region, 50.8% of shooting victims and suspects are Black, even though just 5.7% of Portlanders are Black2. The pain of gun violence goes beyond the victims and suspects. It causes devastating, long-lasting trauma for individuals, families, and entire communities.

Oregon, especially in rural areas, also has a high suicide rate. More than 80% of gun deaths in Oregon are suicides. The other 20% of gun deaths in Oregon are homicides, police shootings, and unintended shootings1. Unintended shootings also cause most nonfatal gun-related injuries 1

Gun‐related injuries and deaths have reached alarming levels since the COVID‐19 pandemic began. We must urgently address the public health crisis caused by gun violence in Oregon.

Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue (GVPHI) Initiative

OHSU, PSU, and the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health are working together to reduce gun violence in Oregon. We promote public health solutions that are:

  • Based on science
  • Focused on prevention
  • Rooted in equity and social justice

The GVPHI initiative is supported by the Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who heads OHSU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and works closely with the Office of the Provost at OHSU. The GVPHI initiative is led by the GVPHI Advisory Committee, which includes faculty, researchers, students and health care providers. Community members and county and state public health organizations also are included.

The mission of the GVPHI initiative is to prevent firearm-related violence and injuries in Oregon by applying public health approaches. We are concerned community members, health care and public health professionals, researchers, and survivors with lived experiences. Our work is guided by anti-racism, community engagement, and collaborative principles. Through research, education, advocacy and action, we will identify the causes and consequences of gun violence, and advance best practices and policies for prevention and healing.

New Firearm Injury Data Dashboard

Dr. Kathleen Carlson, Chair of the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee, and her research team, in collaboration with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), have developed a data dashboard that provides firearm injury data from emergency departments (EDs) across Oregon. The data is updated quarterly.

The team has also developed a fact sheet that reports on the increase in interpersonal firearm injury and death during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report is part of Oregon FASTER, a collaborative project of the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program, that aims to provide timely firearm injury ED visit data to local and state community partners working to prevent firearm injury. The Oregon FASTER project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What has the GVPHI done?

Our first action was hosting community forums to:

  • Discuss gun violence as a public health issue.
  • Find opportunities to reduce gun violence.
  • Promote empathy and healing.

Read a report on what we learned and planned through the forums.

We hosted The Use of Place-based Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence: A Community Conversation with Dr. Charlie Branas. Dr. Branas studies how geography affects medical care and gun violence. Thank you to the Sarah Anne and Erin Ford Braner Endowment and Lectureship for supporting this event.

GVPHI Advisory Committee members are working with city and county leaders on gun violence prevention projects. These projects are:

  • Based on proven prevention strategies.
  • Guided by communities experiencing the trauma of gun violence.

GVPHI members work with state policymakers on issues related to gun violence and racism. We have:

  • Shared gun injury and death data.
  • Shared proven strategies to prevent gun injuries that could work in Oregon.
  • Supported funding for hospital-based violence intervention programs.

Dr. Kathleen Carlson, GVPHI Chair, and her research team are researching ways to prevent gun injuries. They are studying:

  • The use of Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law. This law can temporarily stop someone who has shown a high risk of harm to themselves or others from having guns for up to a year. The study also measures health care providers’ knowledge and beliefs about the law.
  • Rates and types of gun injuries among rural veterans.
  • Gun injury data from emergency rooms across Oregon. The team is sharing this data with community partners working on prevention. Dr. Carlson’s team is working with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to collect the data.


1Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.

2The Cost of Gun Violence in the City of Portland, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, 2020.

Contact us

OHSU-PSU Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Initiative

Contact Gun Violence Prevention Research Center