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Letter: We Have a Public Health Crisis

To the Editor:

The shooting of one child by another in their home, as was reported in the May 2 Valley News, raises again the fears of parents and caregivers about child safety.

The New England Journal of Medicine of Jan. 31 reports that there were more gun-related deaths than motor vehicle fatalities last year. The cost to society from gunshot treatment in hospital emergency departments exceeds $50,000 per incident. Since 9/11, the number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is one half the number of Americans killed by guns each year.

And yet gun violence fails to be understood for what it is: a public health crisis. The science of gun safety research has been silenced by gun-friendly senators who eliminated funding to the Centers for Disease Control. And in 2011, Congress added language that prohibits Health and Human Services from doing similar research.

We have seen research and resulting laws reduce injury and death from smoking, drunken driving, polluted air ... the list goes on. But we lead the world in per capita gun ownership. Rather than make us safer, it has made us more fearful, and for many National Rifle Association members, the fear is of our own government.

It is time for advocates of common-sense gun legislation to become as passionate and persuasive as the gun lobby. Join national groups like Americans For Responsible Solutions and local groups like GunSenseVermont. Speak out against groups like the NRA for what they do: intimidate elected officials with “report cards” and try to bury candidates who don’t pass their gun-friendly tests.

We have a public health crises. To manage it, we need to elect representatives who will restore public health research funding and demand sensible gun legislation. We know from polling data it’s what voters want. It’s time to outsmart the gun lobby. They have the money. We have the vote.

Don McCabe