Abstract – The health and human rights of survivors of gun violence: Charting a research and policy agenda

Cate Buchanan

Health and Human Rights 13/2

Published December 2011


The health and human rights implications of violently acquired impairments (VAI), specifically gun-related injuries and trauma resulting in disability, represent an overlooked public policy concern. For several decades, detailed attention has been committed to better understanding of the international arms trade and its consequences. A discursive shift in the last decade from “small arms control” as the core objective (a “hardware” focus on the weapons themselves) to “armed violence prevention” (a focus on impacts, wider drivers, and solutions) still requires a rigorous set of objectives that respond to the rights and needs of survivors of such violence. This article seeks to chart some of the challenges of responding to gun violence survivors and identify entry points for contributions from health, social science and human rights researchers and practitioners. Efforts to address armed violence typically pivot around two goals: reduction and prevention. But what of those already injured? This article argues that a third goal is overdue for attention: response to those injured, impaired, and disabled from gun violence. This would allow a clear pathway for progress (conceptual, political, policy, and practice) to be defined related to gun violence under the ambit of three overarching goals: reducing existing gun violence; responding to those already injured, traumatized, and impaired by such violence; and preventing future violence from occurring.