U.S. Representative from New York State, Carolyn McCarthy, is a nurse leader to be proud of. A nurse for thirty years, a gun control advocate and Congresswoman for almost twenty years, she knows about this public policy (and health) issue first-hand. In the 1990’s her husband was killed and her son (and only child) seriously wounded in a random shooting on a NYC commuter train. Congresswoman McCarthy is a senior member of the U.S. Congressional Committee on Education and Workforce and is a member of the subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. She has led hearings on cyber-bullying and violence in schools. Here is part of what she wrote yesterday in response to the horrendous Connecticut school shooting:
“Leaders in Washington from both parties, and groups like the NRA, all say that now is not the time to talk about how gun safety laws can save lives in America. I agree, now is not the time to talk about gun laws – the time for that conversation was long before all those kids in Connecticut died today.
We owe it to our children to work harder to reduce gun violence. The Second Amendment is the law of the land but it was never intended to allow murderers to take the lives of innocent kids. It’s our moral obligation as policymakers and as parents to do more to save lives.
I hope the President’s words about taking ‘meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics’ stay true as we continue down this road again.”
Another nurse who has recently spoken out for sane gun control, is NYT Opinion page author and nurse, Theresa Brown. In her article “The Human Cost of the Second Amendment” (9-26-12), she takes a ‘nurse’s eye view’ of the effects of gun violence by bringing the reader into the emergency department and morgue. She writes, “… because to really understand the human cost of guns in the United States we need to focus on gun-related pain and death.”
It is worth remembering that the U.S. has the highest rate of firearm-related deaths (including homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths) of any of the world’s high-income countries. One in every five deaths in people less than 20 years of age in our country is related to firearms. Having guns stored in homes is associated with a threefold increase in risk of homicide (of the people living in the home) and a fivefold increase in the risk of suicide (especially for teenagers and young adults struggling with mental health issues.) Florida and six other states (with lobbying funding from the NRA) have attempted to prohibit doctors and nurses from asking patients (and parents of young children) about gun ownership as part of standard health and safety screening questions within a health care encounter.
The direct medical costs resulting from gun-related injuries and deaths (including suicides) in our country are over a billion dollars every year, and the cost of lost productivity is thirty-four billion (source: American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement “Firearm-related injuries affecting the pediatric population, in Pediatrics, vol 130/5, Nov 1, 2012). Clearly this is a nursing and public health issue. Clearly our Founding Fathers (and the Founding Mothers who fed and supported them) did not intend to have such a “… state of enabled and murderous mayhem…” when they included the Second Amendment (quote is from Theresa Brown’s NYT article linked above).
Congresswoman McCarthy is right in stating that the time for this national conversation was before the homicides of twenty children and their teachers, or the homicide/domestic violence of the mother of the twenty year old killer, or the suicide of the young man who killed them (and who clearly had unaddressed mental health issues.) But if you weren’t part of the solution before, be part of it now.
Consider joining a national gun control lobbying and education group such as the nonpartisan Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Consider signing a petition to ask President Obama to start a national conversation about gun control (linked from Greg Dworkin’s Daily Kos article “A national conversation about gun control” 12-15-12).