200: Common Ground on Gun Violence Responses

Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO Chief Medical Officer, discusses the tragedy of gun violence in America and its connection to men’s mental health; Dr. Randall Williams, Missouri’s former Health Director, talks about a book he is writing about his...

Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO Chief Medical Officer, discusses the tragedy of gun violence in America and its connection to men’s mental health; Dr. Randall Williams, Missouri’s former Health Director, talks about a book he is writing about his experiences in the position; ASTHO’s Juneteenth webinar examines the impact of racism on health equity on Thursday, June 16th; and the newscast celebrates its 200th episode since its launch last August.

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, June 15th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


June is Men's Health Month, but it's a somber occasion this year as many in the nation are looking for answers to the tragedy of gun violence in America and its connection to men's mental health.

Recent shooting events have left dozens dead and even more wounded. Although the issue is highly polarized, ASTHO chief medical officer Dr. Marcus Plescia says there's an opportunity for everyone to work together.


What I find interesting is there is some common ground here. I mean, nobody wants to see male gun owners commit suicide with their gun. Everybody wants us to do something about domestic violence, which is a huge issue.


Thinking about public health and men's health, Plescia says leaders can help foster discussions that are so critical to building a consensus.


First of all, you know, these kinds of conversations and relationships take some time to build. So, if you're wanting to have relationships with gun shop owners or gun clubs, now it be time just to begin to have a foray into that.

But the other thing is that, you know, depending on what state you're in or community—I mean, you know, in some places there's more political willingness to consider interventions. And in some places, a lot of those relationships are already in place, so you can come together with some of these partnerships,


Beyond the role as partner and convener, Plescia notes there are many options available to address gun violence depending on the political will in each of the states and territories.


I think in this country, we are coming to grips with the fact that we don't have a lot of information about what goes on with guns. And when we see gun fatalities, we don't really have a lot of information about what happened or what might've helped to avoid that. So, you know, better data systems, more research. That's probably fairly easy common ground.

You know, in the middle of some of the laws like safe storage of firearm laws, red flag laws where certain people who have maybe a criminal history or other history, there might be red flags so those people can't get guns as easily. You know, there's some middle ground there.

And then, certainly there are more aggressive approaches like background checks and waiting periods, but that's probably only going to be in settings where there's a lot of political will to do that kind of work.



It's been almost a year since Dr. Randall Williams left his job as Missouri's health director. He held the position four years. Now, he has another assignment—writing a book about his experiences. He shared a little about it during a recent visit to Washington, D.C.


I asked each of my colleagues, "What gets you up every day to work 12, 14 hours and do that all the time?" To a man and woman, they would talk about being part of a team. They would talk about that they had been trained to help people and this was a chance, kind of like a lifeguard, to go out there and swim through tough waters and help them. They talked about not wanting to let people down. Many of them mentioned their faith; they felt like they had been put in that position at this time to do the work they were doing.

And so, I found it incredibly gratifying to work with people who were so others-centered that they were able to kind of do superhuman things in very tough times.


Dr. Williams couldn't tell us the title of the book, but he did say it would be out in the fall. Hear more about it during a special edition of the newscast coming up later this month.


Also, ASTHO's Juneteenth webinar on the impact of racism on health equity is tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, June 16th. You can register to watch the event up until it starts at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Just to note: if you want to hear the discussion, including comments from Opal Lee, the grandmother of the Juneteenth holiday, you'll need to watch the event live—it will not be recorded. Sign up for the online presentation using the link in the show notes.


Finally today, a note about the newscast. It's our 200th episode. Since we started reporting ASTHO news last August, the audience has grown and hundreds of guests have joined us with their views on dozens of important public health issues. We are grateful for that and look forward to your continued support and listenership for many hundreds more mornings to come.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Marcus Plescia MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer, ASTHO

Randall Williams MD

Former Director, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services