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Gun Violence Is Now a Public Health Crisis

At the Ad Council, we always say we can’t possibly pick a favorite campaign—just like we can’t pick a favorite child. But sometimes an issue just gets inside you. You see that statistic, you see that headline, and your reaction isn’t just intellectual. It’s not even just emotional. It’s visceral. You feel it twisting in your gut. And as a mother, you feel it in your heart.

I know I’m not the only one who gets that feeling every time I see another headline about someone who has lost their life to gun violence, every time there is another active shooter situation, another suicide in our communities.

The issue of gun violence in America has a reputation for being so polarizing, so partisan, so divisive, that some people treat it as a foregone conclusion that nothing can be done.

At the Ad Council, we know that’s simply not true. We’ve learned that when we meet people where they are, when we tell powerful, human stories and inspire tangible action—even on the most complicated issues—we have the power to create change.

And when it comes to guns, we can all agree—none of us wants to see one more child, one more veteran, one more loved one, lose their life to gun violence. So, what we do is both simple and profound. We start there. From a place of understanding and unity.

We know that we can’t do this alone. None of us can. By bringing in the most brilliant minds and resources from brands, technology, media, advertising and philanthropy, we’ve been able to create coalitions that will create exponential scale.

Our partners at Brady have done, and continue to do, incredible work on gun violence at the policy level. And in the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida six years ago, we joined forces with them on a campaign to End Family Fire, which focuses on preventing shootings that happen when guns are not stored safely, locked, unloaded and away from ammunition.

We’ve helped gun-owning parents better understand the dangers of unsecured firearms in the home and provided resources on safe gun storage.

We’ve shown people how secure firearm storage can prevent gun suicide in a moment of crisis—including a powerful initiative featuring veterans, who are sadly at greater risk.

We’ve launched state-specific initiatives in Missouri and Illinois demonstrating the power of on-the-ground work combined with narrative change to shift behavior.

And we have seen real impact. Fifty-six percent of U.S. gun owners and people in gun-owning households now recognize the End Family Fire campaign. People aware of the campaign are nearly four times more likely to have sought out information on how to safely store their guns and are three times more likely to have talked to friends or family about safe gun storage.

Meanwhile, our friends in the healthcare community have also been working tirelessly. The National Health Care CEO Council, Northwell and Hospitals United have leveraged their expertise and credibility to reframe this as a public health issue. Last year, more than 157 hospitals joined forces on “It doesn’t kill to ask” to begin to create this shift in perspective.

Now just imagine what we can do together as we lock arms and join forces to build on all the incredible work that has already been done and find new messages, new solutions and innovations.

And there is so much more to be done.

Last year, gun injuries were the leading cause of death of children and teens from one to nineteen. For the third consecutive year. Gun violence prevention is not a policy issue, not anymore—it’s a public health crisis. And it’s time we treat it that way.

That is why we are so proud to announce the Ad Council’s new gun violence prevention initiative, with ten million dollars in seed funding from the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention & Safety. This initial donation is the seed of a greater $40 million fundraising goal over the next two years to support the effort’s large-scale plans to reduce firearm deaths and injuries in the United States.

According to a new poll from the Ad Council Research Institute, 79% of adults in America say gun violence is one of their top concerns—but only 26% correctly identified guns as the leading cause of death among children.

There is a huge opportunity to educate people on facts and resources, normalize conversations and behavior around gun safety, and save lives. And at the Ad Council we know we are in a unique position to convene trusted partners, issue experts, healthcare leaders and funding partners to create an unprecedented coalition of brilliant minds and open hearts.

I believe everyone in America has a role to play in bending the curve on this uniquely American epidemic—gun owners, non-gun owners, parents, grandparents, healthcare workers, all of us.

I truly believe we are at a tipping point, when people are not willing to let gun violence continue, when we can come together to create real change. Starting today. Starting now.


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