Shapiro-Davis Budget Would Invest $1 Million for Firearm Injury Prevention Program Under Department of Health

Shapiro-Davis Budget Would Invest $1 Million for Firearm Injury Prevention Program Under Department of Health

Erie, PA – Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) Dr. Debra Bogen hosted a roundtable conversation today in Erie with local public health experts to highlight proposed investments that would address the epidemic of gun violence and make Pennsylvania communities and families safer.

“Making our communities safer and keeping our families safe from gun violence requires a comprehensive approach,” said Lt. Gov. Davis. “Approaching this problem from a public health perspective – treating gun violence as an epidemic – is essential, and that’s why the state Department of Health, county health departments and local health care providers have an important role to play.”

In February, Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a state budget that invests $100 million to address and prevent gun violence in Pennsylvania communities. The Shapiro-Davis budget includes a $37.5 million increase to the Violence Intervention and Prevention program through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), an $11.5 million investment in creating a statewide Building Opportunity through Out of School Time program and a $1 million investment to stand up and staff an Office of Gun Violence Prevention within PCCD.

The budget also includes $1 million in funding for a Firearm Injury Prevention Program within the state Department of Health to enhance data collection and analysis around firearm violence, engage in community education initiatives, support evidence-based interventions and collaborate with county coroners and law enforcement.

“By increasing the number of Pennsylvania homes safely storing firearms we could prevent nearly a third of youth firearm deaths due to unintentional injury and suicide,” said Dr. Bogen, who spent more than two decades as a pediatrician caring for patients care in southwest Pennsylvania. “We want to bring families and communities together to help prevent tragic and preventable injuries and deaths from unsecured firearms.”

Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death for American children, and the rate of firearm-related deaths for children and teens have increased in recent years, with a growing share attributed to gun assaults.

Accidental firearm injuries and deaths are a growing problem for young children, as well. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a child gains access to a loaded firearm and unintentionally shoots themself or someone else every single day in America.

"The UPMC Hamot and UPMC Children's Injury Prevention teams regularly host free firearm safety and storage events in the region," said Gregory English, M.D., trauma surgeon, UPMC Hamot. "At these events, professionals lead families through safety stations, and participating families receive a free firearm safe at the end."

The issue of gun violence impacts communities across the Commonwealth and Erie County, in particular. PCCD recently analyzed gun violence-related incident data published through the Pennsylvania State Police’s Uniform Crime Reporting system for 2022 and found that Erie County had the second-highest gun violence incident rate in the state (trailing only Philadelphia), with 132.7 incidents per 100,000 population.

While policymakers often focus on interpersonal violence when discussing gun safety, suicides are a major problem, as well. The majority of firearm deaths in Pennsylvania are suicides. In contrast to what is seen for gun violence, firearm suicides are more prevalent in rural counties than urban areas.

"We must embrace the kinds of community-based strategies that prioritize collaboration, safe storage practices and education to prevent these tragic losses,” said Dr. Jay Breneman, a veteran and president of the Erie school board, “particularly firearm suicide prevention efforts that will help ensure the safety and well-being of our youth and loved ones.”

Media Contacts

Kirstin Alvanitakis

Communications Director
Lt. Governor's Office Media