The tragedy in Newtown and our own Lakewood police coffeehouse murders have drawn our attention to gun injury prevention and mental health. It took the murder of 20 first-graders and six school employees to re-emphasize the debate.
Doctors have the ear of their patients and community and therefore should promote this public health issue.
Most physicians and nurses support the gun injury prevention bills such as universal background checks on all gun transfer and reckless endangerment for leaving a loaded gun where a child can use it.
Guns are one of the leading causes of premature death in our state. Six hundred Washington and 90 Pierce County residents are killed by guns yearly. Homes with guns have 40 to 170 percent more homicides and 90 to 460 percent more suicides. The vast majority of violent crime is not caused by people with mental illnesses. Less than 5 percent of violent crimes are linked to mental illness.
We must go beyond the discussion of the Second Amendment and focus on preventing gun injury. Seventy-two percent of Americans favor the current White House plan, which includes universal background checks, assault weapons ban and limiting clip size to 10 bullets. The gun lobby has scared our legislators into not supporting the background checks proposal.
I have been surprised to repeatedly hear my neighbors say, “We didn’t think that doctors cared about gun violence.” Let’s show everyone that doctors and the vast majority of citizens do care. Keep talking to your legislators.