The Tragedy of Gun Violence & What to Do Next
To the Oregon Pediatric Society Community,
The enormous gun violence tragedies of the last two weeks cannot be understated: first losing ten elderly Black residents of Buffalo, NY, to racist domestic terrorism, and then, not ten days later, the mass shooting of 19 fourth grade students and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX. Many of us are hurting and enraged and scared right now as we hear recurring stories about gun violence and death in our communities and nation. For those of us who are parents of students, it can be a terrifying time to trust your child will be safe at school.
Pediatricians spend our careers caring for children and their families, trying to address their health and wellness, and recognizing the impacts of social determinants of health. The fact that we care so deeply about the health and safety of children is important because they don’t yet have a voice in policies that profoundly affect them. We mourn these events as physicians and as humans. We feel grief alongside the families and communities that brought up these children and cared for these people. But we also cannot look away when our advocacy is so needed now more than ever. Your efforts matter. The work we all do as pediatricians in the clinical space and in the advocacy space makes a difference in the lives of kids and in the lives of future kids who will benefit from what we do now, in this moment.
Firearm violence can be avoidable if we find the political will to address it in a comprehensive manner that will make a difference.
Policy actions to address ever rising gun violence, which has superseded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for children, require a multipronged approach that centers the health of the public above all else. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stood by policy efforts to curb gun violence in this country. The following is information from AAP President Dr. Moira Szilagyiin an email earlier this week. “The Academy is advocating for three policies that have the potential to garner bipartisan support in the Senate. I urge each of you to take a moment [this] week and reach out to your senators, urging them to:
- Enact universal background check legislation to ensure that those who are most likely to perpetrate gun violence cannot purchase guns.
- Enact comprehensive extreme risk protection orders legislation to allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a person deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.
- Fund gun violence prevention research at $35 million for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $25 million for the National Institutes of Health.”
In Oregon, we have an opportunity to act locally as well.
You can sign the petition for ballot measure IP17 to require a permit to purchase a firearm—which includes completing a firearm safety course and undergoing a complete background check—and bans high capacity magazines. Sign the petition by July 8, 2022, to get this gun safety measure on the November ballot.
The unfair, unjust, and avoidable loss of so many lives to gun violence is difficult to fathom and unpack. We are all feeling the effects of this societal trauma: it impacts our lives and the children and families we care for. So, take care of yourselves, take care of each other, hold space for these hard feelings in yourself and the families you serve. OPS is here to support and work with you to make children safer.
In Grief and Hope,
Angela Zallen, MD, FAAP, OPS Board Vice President
Alanna Braun, MD, FAAP, OPS Board President
Actions for National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 3
- Contact your legislators to let them know that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens in this country, and urge them to pass gun safety laws in 2023. Use the legislator lookup tool to identify your elected officials and their contact information.
- Demand a future free from gun violence by wearing orange this Friday, June 3, on Gun Violence Awareness Day.