The Tragic Impact of Gun Violence
The tragic impact of gun violence in America has been felt in this nation from the days of the early settlers to the recklessness of the Wild, Wild, West to the present day. Gun violence has been a chronic menace to our inner cities, but tragedies such as the Columbine massacre, Virginia Tech shootings, and Colorado movie theater horror have only made the nightmare more real. According to a presidential memorandum released by the White House on January 16, 2013, there are 30,000 gun-related deaths in the United States each year. Homicides account for about 11,000 of those killed. (1)
These deaths, although no less tragic, often do not receive the overwhelming media attention as those of catastrophic mass shootings in America. A recent investigative study by a liberal news outlet reported a total of number of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the past 30 years. In all, hundreds of people in the United States have been injured or killed in these incidents. Many of these were children or youths. Most of the shootings involved semi-automatic handguns. Assault weapons were the second most popular weapon of choice. (2, 3) The victims were shot multiple times – some at close range. (4)
Until now, lawmakers have been reticent to take meaningful, serious, and lasting action to curb the violence. What has changed? Last month, the senseless killings of 20 children and their six teachers and caretakers in a quiet, small town in Connecticut may have made all the difference. This was assumed to be a “safe” place. These types of awful things just didn’t happen “there.”
Children are afraid, and they are tired of the gun violence. They have made their voices heard by submitting their ideas regarding how the gun crisis in this nation can best be resolved to President Obama. (5) After careful consideration, a presidentially-appointed task force studied the matter and reported its findings to President Obama. (6) The president considered the task force recommendations and initiated 23 Executive Actions to address the gun violence issue.
Gun Violence – A Public Health Crisis
Thanks to President Barack Obama’s 23 Executive Actions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have more of a free license to study gun violence and analyze statistical data related to gun violence. (7)This is welcome news as public health leaders, physicians, policy analysts, and – ultimately – President Obama, have declared that gun violence in this nation is a “public health crisis.” (1, 8) It is hopeful that these future CDC studies will help mitigate or prevent the awful massacres that have robbed American families of their hopes and dreams after the violent death of a loved one.
Of relevance to physicians, the Executive Actions will remind the American public that doctors’ rights to broach the subject of gun safety with their patients are preserved under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Mental health professionals will also receive the additional support that they need to identify and treat those with mental health difficulties in order to prevent them from becoming a danger to themselves or to our society at-large. (9)
Presidential Executive Actions
According to the White House Office of the Press Secretary, President Obama’s Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions are as follows:
“1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking the patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, house of worship, and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.” (7)
Defenders and Protectors of the Second Amendment
The gun lobby in this country, spearheaded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is powerful, and it can be difficult for many lawmakers to resist its influence. Justly so, the second amendment cites the powerful right to bear arms, and its historical and current significance cannot be denied. However, there is a problem when second amendment rights infringe upon the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. These rights include the right for all people in America – especially our nation’s children – to feel safe from harm and protected from violent gun related-deaths. There must be a way for both second amendment rights and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all to peacefully coexist.
Is Gaining Access to Guns Really This Easy?
via It’s easier to get an assault weapon than a doctor. Author: Dr. Pamela Wible
In a stirring blog post, Dr. Pamela Wible, an Oregon family physician, describes how easy it is to obtain a firearm with no waiting period, a cursory, hassle-free background check, and little or no written documentation or background verification. Here is an excerpt:
“I pick up a Glock semiautomatic, the model used in the Virginia Tech massacre…..At today’s gun show, I’m offered assault weapons. No paperwork. I don’t even have to give my name…..In Oregon, I don’t need a license to use my gun, but I do need a license to use my stethoscope…..Providing health care in a country of gun lovers has its challenges.”
Unfortunately, there was one more attack concerning the subject of guns prior to the issue of the Executive Actions. This one occurred on two well-known innocent victims – the President Obama’s children, Sasha and Malia Obama. The NRA declared in an advertisement that President Obama’s daughters were protected in a school with 11 armed guards and that there were two sets of rules regarding gun violence protection: one set of rules for the President and one set of rules for the rest of the nation. According to NRA president Mr. Wayne LaPierre, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (10) According to the Washington Post, the Obama girls’ school, Sidwell Friends, disputed the NRA armed guards claim. (11, 12)
Even cultural icons have weighed in on the matter. The recently crowned Miss America, Mallory Hagan, stated that she did not agree with fighting violence with violence when asked in her pageant interview whether or not armed guards should be present in every school. (13)
Mr. LaPierre is definitely at liberty to exercise and protect his first amendment right to speak out and guard his second amendment right to bear arms. However, again, there is a problem when second amendment rights infringe upon the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. There must be a way for both second amendment rights and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all to peacefully coexist.
Secret Service protection for Presidents and their families is nothing new. Recently, Susan Eisenhower described her experience under Secret Service protection as the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower in The Washington Post. Ms. Eisenhower did not seem to agree with the NRA’s stance of armed protection as an elite privilege. She stated that it was quite difficult and that it certainly did not feel like a privilege to have Secret Service protection at the time. (10, 14)
The debate concerning gun control in this nation will continue to be waged for years to come. It is hopeful that the release of these Executive Actions will be the beginning of the end of the saga.
1. Presidential Memorandum.”Engaging in Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence.” January 16, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/16/presidential-memorandum-engaging-public-health-research-causes-and-preve. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
2. Follman, Mark, Aronsen, Gavin, Pan, Deanna. “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America.” Mother Jones. Updated December 15, 2012. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map?page=1. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
3. Follman, Mark, Aronsen, Gavin, Pan, Deanna. “US Mass Shootings, 1982-2012: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation. ” Mother Jones. Updated December 28, 2012. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
4. Dunavin, Davis, Dinan, Michael. ” Medical Examiner: Newtown Shooting Victims Suffered ‘Devastating Set of Injuries’.” Newtown Patch. December 15, 2012. http://newtown.patch.com/articles/police-no-motive-emerging-in-newtown-school-shooting. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
5. Sonmez, Felicia. “White House releases videos of children reading letters on gun violence.” The Washington Post. January 18, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/01/18/videos-of-children-reading-letters-on-gun-violence/. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
6. Rucker, Philip, Wallstein, Peter. “Biden’s gun task force met with all sides, but kept its eye on the target.” Washington Post. January 19, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bidens-gun-task-force-met-with-all-sides-but-kept-its-eye-on-the-target/2013/01/19/520d77a6-60c5-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
7. Press Release. White House Office of the Press Secretary, January 16, 2013.
8. “The History of Violence as a Public Health Issue.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/history0fviolence.html. Reprint from: Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA. History of violence as a public health issue. AMA Virtual Mentor, February 2009. Volume 11, No. 2: 167-172. http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2009/02/mhst1-0902.html. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
9. Lowes, Robert. “Obama Sides With Physicians in Fray Over Gun Questions.” Medscape News Today. January 16, 2013. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/777771. Retrieved January 18, 2013.)
10. The Media ‘Speaks for Elites.’ America Speaks for Itself.” National Rifle Association. http://www.nrastandandfight.com/america-agrees.html. America Speaks for Itself. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
11. Kessler, Glenn. ” 4 Pinocchios for a slashing NRA ad on security at Sidwell Friends School. ” Washington Post. January 17, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/4-pinocchios-for-a-slashing-nra-ad-on-security-at-sidwell-friends-school/2013/01/16/95b2127a-6032-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_blog.html. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
12. Strauss, Valerie. ” No, Sidwell Friends School has no armed guards.” Washington Post. January 18, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/18/no-sidwell-friends-school-has-no-armed-guards/. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
13. Genet, Danielle. ” Miss New York Mallory Hagan Crowned Miss America 2013.” Jan 13, 2013. ABC News Website. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2013/01/miss-new-york-crowned/. Retrieved January 19, 2013.)
14. Eisenhower, Susan. “The NRA’s Diabolical Ad.” The Washington Post. January 17, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-nras-diabolical-ad-about-obamas-children/2013/01/17/4b3f0bd2-60f8-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html. Retrieved January 18, 2013.