Joan McTigue: The flip side of gun ownership

Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 5, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.

Over and over I hear the National Rifle Association argument that law-abiding citizens have a right to keep and bear arms. Catchy as that sound bite is, there is so much more to the issue. And that is the flip side: a consequence of gun ownership is gun violence.

Gun violence is without a doubt a huge public health issue. Specific and solid data are coming into focus. But what is already known is distressingly vivid.

You don't need new data sets to know what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already told us: Guns kill more than 30,000 citizens each year. This includes more than 10,000 homicides. Nearly 75,000 persons were treated in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal gun wounds in 2010. A gun in the home makes the likelihood of both homicide and suicide three to five times higher.

Children are disproportionately affected by this irresponsible madness. The Brady Task Force reports an average of eight children under age 20 are killed by guns every day. Firearm homicide is the leading cause of death behind car accidents for this group. And what the heck is any citizen doing with military-style assault weapons?

Gunshot victims of both mass killings with assault weapons and gun accidents often affecting children from guns owned by their parents are the tragedies of a public health threat that needs common-sense law and policy now.

As a society, we need to stand behind law enforcement, stand behind those innocently killed and injured, and stand behind medical professionals all over the U.S. dealing with this now-identified epidemic and say we have had enough of NRA sound bites.

National Rifle Association — get with it. Back common-sense laws like universal background checks. Stop insisting it is a right for anyone of age to buy guns out of a pickup truck from some stranger whose posting was found on Craigslist.

Get the gun manufacturers who so generously support your organizations financially to make safety changes in their weapons, just as car manufacturers did around seat belts. This might affect many of these accidents that so affect children, when parents say, "I thought the gun under my bed or in my drawer was empty."

Stop your costly court battles trying to put legal gags on physicians who know and assert it is good preventative medicine to ask about guns in their patients' homes.

Step up. In the first seven years of the Iraq War, more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed by guns in the U.S. every two months.

Openly acknowledge gun violence is a public health issue. Drop the sound bites, the fear mongering that jack-booted pediatricians are violating your rights. Be part of the solution to this epidemic of gun violence.

Joan McTigue is a physician assistant who lives in Gainesville.

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