Gun violence: An epidemic

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia.

“The AMA has long considered the epidemic of gun violence to be a public health issue.”-AMA

For many years, the AMA and other medical groups have attempted to get both the President and Congress to view “this epidemic of violence” as a public health issue, to no avail.
After the 12-14-12 Conn. school mass shooting, the AMA sent a letter to President Obama and Congress. It stated: “Many of the deaths and injuries resulting from firearms are preventable.”  “The relatively easy access to the increased firepower of assault weapons, semi-automatic firearms, high-capacity magazines, and high-velocity ammunition heightens the risk of multiple gunshot wounds and severe penetrating trauma, resulting in more critical injuries and deaths.”
That letter, signed by dozens of Medical Associations, also discussed mental health services and funding research into firearms violence. Virtually nothing was done as a result and now we have yet another gun tragedy, joining Aurora, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Columbine and numerous others. And, we have the same statements by people not wanting to act, saying that the Vegas shooting is “horrific”, we are “grieving”, but it’s “premature” to act (Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, AJC, 10-11-17).
I own a gun and, even though I am not a great shot, I like to go target shooting as much as the next guy. As opposed to most of my gun toting friends who have been brainwashed by the NRA and social media, I am not obsessed with the possibility that my gun will be taken away from me. No national leader of either party will ever propose confiscating the 300 million guns owned by 50 million Americans.
My friends who are NRA members seem to believe “all we can do is pray.” That is just a way to saying ignore the problem. Prayer alone is no answer and neither is Trump tweeting “God Bless you!” to the families (10-2) and then doing nothing.
I agree with Dina Titus, the Democratic Congresswoman from Vegas who stated: “pray for those who have power that they will have…the resolve to find ways to end the gun violence.” God helps those who help themselves.
The Harvard Injury Control Center has studied the issue. Their website lists six studies which present the problem in detail. The bottom line is that more guns equals more gun violence.
This fact is true when comparing states. It is true when comparing nations. Unfortunately, due to the very effective misinformation (alternate facts) campaign of the gun lobby, gun enthusiasts truly believe exactly the opposite.
As the AMA has stated, we must increase funding for research into the causes of gun violence and ways of preventing it, examining what works in low violence states and nations. Not surprisingly, the same lobbyists that say nothing can be done also oppose any scientific studies being funded, so funding is being reduced. In this way, the firearms problem resembles the climate change issue.
In the meantime, there are clear short term things that can be done. Background checks must be mandatory and the gun show loophole eliminated. Instead of loosening laws on criminals buying guns (which the DOJ did on 2-15), they must be tightened and national databases strengthened.
Automatic and semi-automatic weapons of war should not be owned by individuals any more than bazookas should. Armor-piercing bullets and larger magazines must be controlled. States can limit where weapons can be carried and concealed.
Mental health services must be available and affordable for those in need. Community outreach must be expanded.
Per a Quinnipiac poll (10-12-17), “American voters support stricter gun laws 60 – 36 percent, the highest level of support ever.” As opposed to what the NRA and gun enthusiasts would say, many actions to lessen gun violence are obvious. It is the will to enact them by Congress and state legislatures like ours that is lacking.

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