On Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on gun violence, the first time his office has released a publication focused on the crisis. The move marks a significant step in the effort to address gun violence as a public health issue — and it could have big implications for public policy.

The 32-page review comes after The Trace reported in 2022 that a group of former surgeons general had called on their successor for a report on firearm violence. While the surgeon general doesn’t have the authority to enact significant policy changes himself, his recommendations influence policymakers and hospitals. They also rally public attention. 

As Katie Worth reported for The Trace in April, some gun violence prevention advocates have begun turning to messaging as a means of changing how Americans view firearms. After all, the thinking goes, people once smoked cigarettes everywhere from hospitals to airplanes. Our collective tolerance changed in no small part thanks to public health messaging campaigns — and an influential Surgeon General’s Report.

“It’s good to see the surgeon general recognize this problem, its magnitude, and the enormous impact that it has on health,” Daniel Webster, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told The Trace’s Chip Brownlee. “For years to come, people will look at this document.”

For The Trajectory newsletter, Brownlee spoke with Murthy to get a better understanding of the motivations behind the advisory and whether he believes that a public health call to action can break through in today’s polarized climate. That interview is coming out on Tuesday — if you’re not already subscribed to The Trajectory, you can sign up here to get the Q&A sent straight to your inbox.

Housekeeping: The Trace is out of the office next Thursday and Friday to observe the Independence Day holiday. The Weekly Briefing will return on July 12.

From The Trace

The latest from our team.

Surgeon General Issues First-Ever Gun Violence Advisory

Dr. Vivek Murthy called gun violence an “urgent public health crisis.” His office’s warning could have significant ramifications for public policy.

Gunmaker SIG Sauer Found Liable in Shooting Accident

A Georgia jury concluded that the company had failed to adequately warn consumers about the risk of its most popular gun, the P320, unintentionally discharging.

Days After the Supreme Court Rejected a Bump Stock Ban, Philadelphia Outlawed Rapid-Fire Devices. Will It Matter?

Two local gun owners are already challenging the city’s law.

What to Know This Week

Alex Jones’s court-appointed bankruptcy trustee indicated that he plans to shutter and sell Jones’s media company, Free Speech Systems, to help pay the $1.5 billion in legal penalties the conspiracy theorist owes for repeatedly calling the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre a hoax. That sale would likely include Infowars — meaning that proceeds from the sale of the platform Jones used to spread lies about the shooting could very well make their way to victims’ families. [Associated Press/Intelligencer/Courthouse News

At least 158 active-duty soldiers took their own lives last year, a suicide rate that’s been rising steadily since the Army began tracking it two decades ago. A major factor in this crisis is guns: Most soldiers who die by suicide use firearms, and the Army has little say over service members’ access to guns outside the base. Even when someone is found to be “high risk,” the Army can only prohibit them from using military-issued weapons, and it has no say over personally owned guns. [The New York Times/The New York Times]

The National Rifle Association self-identifies as the “foremost defender of Second Amendment rights.” The Library of Congress and Wikipedia describe it as a gun rights advocacy group. Why does Google list the NRA as a “human rights” organization? [Raw Story

In 2020, a Georgia state trooper shot and killed Julian Lewis on a rural highway after a five-minute pursuit over a broken taillight. Newly surfaced investigative details and video show that the trooper began shooting 1.6 seconds after his cruiser stopped — and raise questions about why he avoided prosecution. [Associated Press]

Actor Alec Baldwin is scheduled to go on trial next month for the accidental shooting on the set of “Rust” that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. How has the case against Baldwin gone so far? [The New York Times]

In Memoriam

Lyndsey Vicknair, 33, was always eager to help out: In the small community around the Austin Honey Badgers Track Club, a Central Texas nonprofit for young runners that her 7-year-old daughter participated in, she was known for her steady presence at practices and competitions, and her readiness to offer assistance. Vicknair was killed in a mass shooting at a Juneteenth festival in an Austin suburb earlier this month; 54-year-old educational administrator Ara Duke was also killed in the shooting. Vicknair, a lawyer who was named a “Rising Star” in an industry magazine, was a mother of three who had a “love for young people,” a co-founder of the running group told the Austin American-Statesman. She was soft-spoken and kind, friends said, and cared deeply about her children and those around her. “She was a light,” the running group co-founder said. “She was a helper.”

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“In 2023, a mass shooter attacked The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, and three mothers were compelled to act. Their mission: help pass some kind of gun control in one of the reddest states in the country, a state where the Republican Party has a supermajority in the legislature. But these women aren’t your typical gun control activists. They’re lifelong conservatives, believers in the Second Amendment and – at first – sure that their own party would understand their concerns.” [Embedded]

Pull Quote

“Unfortunately, I think suicide has just become a normal part of Army culture. It doesn’t even surprise anyone anymore when it happens.”

— A former officer at Fort Riley, an Army installation in Kansas, on soldier suicides, to The New York Times