President Barack Obama has suggested sensible gun control proposals that we, as health care providers, strongly support as a first step in curbing the epidemic of morbidity and mortality related to gun violence.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, we would like to say that we have had enough. As physicians, we cannot ignore the facts any longer. More guns equal more gun deaths. With upward of 30,000 gun-related deaths a year in the United States, we lead the industrialized world in firearm-related violence. This has to end. Not tomorrow, not next year, but now.
We are your doctors and your children's doctors. We are your nurses. We are the people who care for the victims of violence after the guns do the damage. We stop the bleeding. We fix the wounds. We transfuse the blood and provide the medicine. We save the victims, sometimes by heroic measures.
We'd like to stop having to do this. We'd like to not have to treat another person for a gunshot wound. We'd especially love to never have that person be an innocent child.
We have grieved for the toddler shot by an older child at a day care center. We have mourned with the patient whose son's girlfriend was accidentally killed by a firearm while at church. We have cried with our colleague whose uncle was shot in the back, and subsequently died, during a robbery attempt.
We have collectively grieved for every senseless loss of life from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Tucson to Oak Creek to Aurora to Sandy Hook and every other shooting that didn't get mass media coverage.
Eighty-five people die every day from a firearm. We stand with millions of Americans who want to see change.
We stand with thousands of health care providers across the nation who are leading this charge. We are standing with decorated generals, police chiefs, mayors and victims across the country to say that we have seen enough loss of innocent life from gun violence.
Gun violence is a public health crisis like the flu or cancer or heart disease. More people die from a gun homicide in the United States every year than all the troops lost over a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2015, there will be more firearm-related deaths than auto-related deaths. Yet these deaths seem to be the only ones our lawmakers think they are powerless to prevent. They are not . We can prevent gun-related deaths in the United States. We just need to choose to do so.
By advocating for and passing seat belt laws to decrease automobile fatalities, enforcing stricter legal limits to decrease alcohol-related deaths and creating marketing restrictions for tobacco products, we have successfully used policy to save human lives in the past, and we can now do so again by urging our lawmakers to enact meaningful gun control laws in the United States.
We want doctors to be able to ask, document and counsel patients on gun safety in their homes. This alone is not enough. We want to see a ban on assault weapons and an aggressive buy-back program for military-style weapons that are currently in circulation. We want universal background checks for any gun purchase, along with mandatory waiting periods of 48 hours and limits on the purchase of ammunition. We want a reinstatement of funding for research on firearm safety so there is a clear understanding of the impact that these interventions can have on this public health crisis.
Will this be enough? We will not know how many lives we can save until we try. The time for action was years ago, but let's hope it's not too late.