Gun Violence—Make It Stop

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Five years ago, we did not think that any shooting could be worse than the one that killed 20 children, only 6 and 7 years old, and 7 adults, at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. But again, the unimaginable has occurred, and the numbers are staggering. Fifty-nine lives lost and 500+ injured, by a lone shooter armed with a cache of powerful and deadly guns, modified to serve as automatic weapons. How is it that one man can accumulate more than 40 firearms and plan such an attack?
After Sandy Hook, I wrote an editorial acknowledging that critical-care nurses see the effects of gun violence every day. Moreover, we know that much of what we have seen is preventable. This is clearly a public health issue. We know that the purpose of a gun is to kill, perhaps wild game, but often humans, who become our patients. The images of Sandy Hook, Orlando, San Bernardino, Aurora, and now Las Vegas bring me back to so many patients that I have cared for and families I have grieved with.1
The editorial was a call for unity, wrapped in certainty, that the events in Newtown would cause us to right the ship. As the nation grieved and banned together to address the complex issues related to gun violence, I, too, believed that we would come together as a nation so this would never happen again.2
But the shootings continue, and the statistics are staggering. Every day, 315 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention. Every day, 93 people die of gun violence.3
We are not safe when individuals can legally purchase firearms and large amounts of ammunition. Often, these individuals choose automatic weapons and/or other firearms and reengineer them to kill many people at once. This could not be what the second amendment inferred. Yet, by upholding the law, without common-sense regulation, we are all complicit in each mass shooting; our silence empowers individuals to kill and injure hundreds of our citizens.
We know that the core of health care is prevention, and prevention of gun-related injury is an ongoing challenge. As providers, we must raise our voices and use our expertise and research findings toward evidence that may lead to some solutions. In this spirit, I wrote again in 2016, as my heart was heavy and angered by a senseless shooting of a physician at my local hospital. I realized that there is not enough research to inform us about guns, their effects on society, ways to control injury, and so many important questions that remain unanswered. As professionals, we know that data inform us, and we cannot expect to make change unless the data are given to the people who make change. Perhaps better data can help keep people safe and guide changes policy and law.4
Doctors for America, an organization of physicians and medical students, continues to challenge Congress to end a ban (#EndTheBan) on the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes for Health from conducting federally funded scientific research on gun violence. The call to congress is to appropriate funds to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes for Health to conduct this lifesaving research, as we do for other preventable injuries in the United States.5
Gun violence prevention groups remind us that as health care professionals and public health researchers we use well-funded evidence-based research to save lives from car accidents and other traffic fatalities, reduce smoking-related illnesses, and prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other major health challenges.
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