Forum, Oct. 12: A Public Health Crisis

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
A Public Health Crisis

The Las Vegas mass shooting was a horrible tragedy affecting thousands of people: victims, family members and friends. Our hearts go out to them. Yet the sadder fact is that every day of the year our nation suffers more gun deaths than occurred in Las Vegas (homicides, accidents, suicides). Over 90 people per day are killed by guns in the U.S., and twice that number are wounded. Gun violence is a public health crisis.

We also face a tragic opioid crisis in the U.S., and thank goodness our medical and government institutions are actively working to reduce overdoses and improve lives by funding treatment, policy research and new strategies.

For many years, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done excellent work to reduce injuries and deaths in both medical and non-medical areas: automobile safety, safeguards for children’s toys, the ebola outbreak and tobacco education, for example. Yet since 1996, Congress has forbidden the CDC to study the gun violence issue. In June 2016 the American Medical Association adopted a position that the United States is facing a “public health crisis in gun violence” that requires a comprehensive public health response and solution.

Many commentators are telling us that nothing can or should be done, but they are wrong. We can:

Permit the CDC to collect data and study ways to reduce gun violence.

Allow courts to remove guns from domestic abuse situations.

Begin a public information campaign to reduce accidental gun deaths, and to train citizens how to store and use guns safely.

Require that all gun purchasers pass a background check; make that process easy and free.

The Supreme Court ruled in the Heller Case (2007) that citizens have a right to gun ownership for self-defense, and also that our government can make reasonable laws to keep the rest of us safe. It is time for Congress and the states to work to improve the safety of all of us. Gun violence is a public health crisis hurting hundreds of our citizens every day.

Christopher and Terri Ashley


John Brown Was a Murderer, Too

An article in the Oct. 8 Sunday Valley News reported that Vermont has designated Oct. 16 as John Brown Day. Although Brown was an abolitionist, he was also a murderer. On the night of May 24, 1856 Brown led a raid referred to as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Five men were pulled from their beds in the middle of the night and hacked to death with swords. Brown was charged with murder and evaded capture until Oct. 16, 1859 at Harper’s Ferry. True, some historians consider him a hero in the fight to abolish slavery and have a tendency to brush over his tactics in favor of his goals.

Woodstock Union High School teacher Bradley Archer, who was instrumental in the Vermont Legislature approving the designation, said “he was pleased the state was recognizing Brown in a time of tension over which people we should celebrate and which we should condemn.” Brown was avid in his anti-slavery beliefs and led the raid on Harper’s Ferry to incite a slave revolt. Ironically, the first person killed at Harper’s Ferry was Hayward Shepherd, a freed black man working for the local railroad. Brown was hanged on Dec. 1, 1859. The charges were treason, inciting slaves to revolt and murder.

By celebrating Brown with the tensions that exist within society today, is this saying that the means, no matter what, are justified by the ends? If the state wants to celebrate heroes of the anti-slavery movement, they would be better served by celebrating Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman.

Bruce St. Peter