Monday, June 20, 2016

Powerful New Allies To Help Prevent Gun Violence

The Gun Violence Prevention movement has long struggled to make headway against the huge lobbying efforts and money pumped into legislator's pockets.  But mass shooting after mass shooting, every increasing, has opened more eyes to the growing danger of gun violence in our society, and with each tragedy there are more supporters of our cause.  After Sandy Hook, for instance, we saw the formation of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, funding efforts by Michael Bloomberg, and 

After the mass shooting in Orlando, at the Pulse club, with a record 49 people killed, plus the shooter, and 53 injured, more people than ever have come forward.  Notably, three powerful groups have thrown in their support.

The LGBTQ movement: Violence and murder against those of alternative sexual orientation has
only increased in recent years, with a massive jump in just the last year of 20%.  From a article, citing results from a report released by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):

The number of murders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people jumped 20 percent in the United States last year, activists said on Monday, releasing their findings a day after a mass shooting at a Florida gay nightclub left 49 people dead. 
The violence in 2015 was the highest since 2012, according to the report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). ...
Beverly Tillery, who heads the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which coordinates the NCAVP, called for public discussion on LGBTQ people and violence. 
“This is … a tragedy that belongs to LGBTQ communities, but a tragedy that belongs to the entire nation as well,” she said. 
And given that the majority of those shot at the Pulse club were LGBTQ, it stands to reason that this demographic has now fully committed to the GVP movement.  In fact, 50 organizations signed a joint open letter to Congress calling for stronger gun legislation, including universal background checks, a renewed assault weapon ban, closing the Terror Gap, and stronger legislation against hate crimes.

I have every faith in the LGBTQ movement and their goals.  In the words of my friend, Mike The Gun Guy, from his blog post:
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Senate vote this week and I care but I really don’t care.  Because the momentum created by the Orlando tragedy won’t go away.  And let’s not forget that when LGBTQ began its historic push for cultural change, many of Gun-nut Nation’s best friends (right-wing Evangelicals, political conservatives) tried to block their way. Guess what?  They lost.  And if LGBTQ gets behind gun violence prevention, Gun-nut Nation will lose that one, too.

The American Medical Association (AMA):  Though a number of other national health and medical associations have taken a stance in favor of increased gun regulation and a lifting of the federal ban on funding gun violence research, this week the AMA joined those ranks at their 2016 annual meeting, declaring that gun violence is a "public health crisis."  In a public release, they stated,
"With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence," said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D. "Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries. An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement, and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms."
and they stated that they would lobby Congress for stronger gun reform, including waiting periods and universal gun background checks.

There was also a call to action by the AMA:
AMA policy guides our advocacy efforts for patients and physicians and at this meeting, we built on existing policy with several key developments:
  • Officially calling gun violence in the United States a public health crisis that requires a comprehensive public health response and solution
  • Directing the AMA to actively lobby Congress to overturn legislation that for 20 years has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence
  • Calling for background checks and a waiting period for all firearms purchasers, whereas previous policy only dealt with handguns
Numerous surgeons and other medical professionals testified at the meeting about their experiences with gun violence.  For instance:
One physician testified that she had treated so many gunshot victims as a resident that she was told to stop tracking the head and neck surgeries she performed because she had more than enough to demonstrate her competency to complete her training. 
A young emergency physician shared that trying to revive gunshot victims and treat the wounded had become shockingly routine for him. What’s more, he noted that even as an academic physician treating such a high number of victims, he doesn’t have the ability to turn to data to examine how these injuries might be prevented.
Indeed, gun violence is an urgent public health crisis, and an evidence-based approach is the only logical way to address the problem.  

Veterans Coalition for Common Sense:  A group of former senior military officials,
including General David Petraeus, General Wesley Clark, and General 
Stanley McChrystal, along with other generals and admirals, and spearheaded by Captain Mark Kelly, have formed this new group of veterans committed to the GVP movement, Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, splintering off from Captain Kelly's other group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.  HERE is the official organizational announcement with the signatures of each of the military leaders who founded it.

“Veterans are folks that understand firearms and weapons. These are people who swore an oath to defend the Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment,” Kelly said. "At the same time, we have a problem with more than 30,000 people dying from gun violence and have to act.” 
The group also plans to address the outsized impact of guns used in veteran suicides. Nearly two-thirds of veterans who kill themselves do so with a firearm, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
The article then goes on to point out:
A 2013 Global Strategy Group poll of 804 veterans found 84 percent agreed with the statement that “we can protect responsible gun owners’ Second Amendment rights while still making it more difficult for criminals and other dangerous people to obtain guns.”

No doubt, in the coming days, we will see more national groups join forces with the GVP movement.  Despite this week's failure, once again, by our federal leaders to pass any meaningful gun reform bills, the people will not be ignored.  Our lives are on the line, and together we will demand action and vote out those who continue to allow dangerous people to get their hands on guns.