Every day we hear that our country is in crisis, or at a crossroads, or under threat, or simply failing and falling apart. While many of these claims are hyperbolic in nature and others are downright false narratives, the threat posed to our children in school is all too real. School shootings burst into our consciousness with Columbine and overwhelmed most of the country with Newtown. On May 24th, the wound that is our national grief was torn wide open when 19 children and two adults were gunned down by a young man with an assault rifle in Uvalde, Texas.
Of course, schools are not the only places where America experiences mass shootings. Movie theaters, concerts, churches and grocery stores are, unfortunately no longer just locations where we gather en masse, they are places of mass destruction of life. The anxiety many feel when gathering anywhere in significant numbers is palpable, and it is fear that is driving that anxiety. We have become a nation desperate to gather with friends and family after the isolation of the pandemic, yet having to fear that an angry young man with a gun will show up as well. Our children are run through active shooter drills and in the most horrific scenarios imaginable, forced to pull their dead friends’ bodies over themselves and play dead just to survive. It is grotesque, it is horrifying and it has to change.
One way to address the situation is through mental health investments, something I strongly favor.
As a retired physician I have seen the difference that access to high quality healthcare makes in the lives of everyday Americans. Mental health care is part of that, but we must actually invest in it. We cannot simply roll it out as a talking point every time a gun tragedy occurs and then ignore it like so many of our elected officials do today. We must take action on mental health care, as part of a larger strategy to curb gun violence in America.
Another part of our overall strategy to reduce gun violence is to enact common-sense safety measures that will protect our children and keep weapons of war out of the hands of dangerous individuals. In most states, an 18-year-old with a history of abusing his girlfriend, making on-line threats, and torturing pets can buy a semi-automatic rifle. This simply defies common sense. Hopefully, that will change this week when the Senate votes on a bill to close the “boyfriend loophole” and provide financial incentives to states that institute red flag laws and increase mental health and school safety spending.
The new, bipartisan Senate bill is the latest legislation introduced in the aftermath of Uvalde. HR 7910 proposed limiting the sales of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns with a high-capacity magazine potential to individuals over the age of 21, terminating legal straw sales, and regulating ghost guns. HR 2377 would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court for a temporary order to prohibit someone from purchasing or possessing a firearm. All three bills would make a positive impact on gun safety in America and were I in Congress I would have supported them.
The time for political platitudes like “thoughts and prayers” and “keeping schools appropriately protected,” are long gone. We need real, bold action from leaders who won’t avoid difficult choices just to appease corporate lobbyists who profit in the billions while our children pay the ultimate price.
We are stronger than the thugs and bullies who have gaslit us into believing that we must oppose all gun safety measures. Together, we can elect officials who will lead, instead of follow and show the courage this moment requires, the courage our children deserve by supporting common sense gun safety measures.
Originally published July 10, 2022 in the Bend Bulletin: https://www.bendbulletin.com/opinion/guest-column-what-we-should-do-about-guns/article_61f1b72c-ff08-11ec-8621-63323f4ad0b1.html