Our latest Public Health crisis — and what we can do to get well.



Another domestic dispute  — and again — people were shot and killed in Seattle.  One more family fight, tempers and guns involved, more deaths.

Add these to the statistics we know nationwide from the latest annual data: 12,179 people murdered. 18,223 people committed suicide. 592 people killed accidentally. 326 killed by police intervention. 273 died but intent was not known. Nearly 70,000 more were shot but survived.  That’s nearly 100,000 Americans shot in one year.

The faces of Sandy Hook Elementary. Photo credit Boston Globe

I worry about becoming numb to numbers. It’s easy to do.  To make any progress at all, I know we must stay focused on the people who were killed, the soft faces we won’t touch again, and the families and friends who are mourning this morning.

Based upon the widespread national conversations, we couldn’t have a better time to step forward to honor those who have died, while respecting the Second Amendment as well.  I’ve written about this before, in a blog entry about Newtown and another one about  steps we could take for public safety. Please don’t let your eyes glaze over; stay with me here.

There are some important new heavyweights joining this conversation. Our public health leaders are weighing in, big time.

The people we pay to keep us healthy and to save our lives in an emergency are saying loudly that  we have a full blown public health crisis on our hands.  100,000 people  were shot in our country last year alone; yes, this constitutes an epidemic.  Doctors and emergency response personnel have been saying this for years, and many of  us are at last growing ears to hear.

A new nation-wide poll just released from Johns Hopkins University Public Health today summarized their findings this way:

“The majority of Americans support a broad array of policies to reduce gun violence, according to a new national public opinion survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

These policies include requiring universal background checks for all gun sales (supported by 89 percent); banning the sale of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons (69 percent); banning the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines (68 percent); and prohibiting high-risk individuals from having guns, including those convicted of a serious crime as a juvenile (83 percent) and those convicted of violating a domestic-violence restraining order (81 percent).”

You can access the full information from Johns Hopkins University. 

Want to help?  We can.

Our  legislators need to hear from us that a significant majority of us support them in passing new laws to address our latest public health crisis.  Universal background checks; ban on military-assault rifles; regulations on the size of magazine clips and the type of ammunition sold for starters, and perhaps some legislation to allow local control in urban areas.  And yes, additional funding for mental health programs and support for families whose loved ones need mental health services for starters.

We can help our legislators look the gun lobby in the eye when thousands of us moms, dads, clergy, doctors, teachers, first responders — all of us — talk to them about what’s important to us. Healthy kids and safe neighborhoods top the list.

Want more information about the public health part of the conversation?  Join me on Monday evening, February 4, 2013 at Town Hall, 7:00 p.m.  Your public health experts, Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dean of the UW’s School of Public Health, Dr. David Fleming, Director of Seattle-King County Public Health, Dr. Frederick Rivara, Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at UW and Seattle Children’s Hospital, Amnon Schoenfeld, Director of Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services for King County, Dr. Beth Ebel, Director of Harboreview Injury Prevention and Research Center will address the public health impacts of gun violence.  The event will be moderated by Steve Boyd.

Now’s the time.  Please be part of this historic effort.

 

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