We join our fellow citizens across the country in expressing our deepest sympathy to members of the Sutherland Springs, Texas, community, who are suffering from Sunday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church — the deadliest in the state’s history. Claiming 26 lives and injuring 20 others, this latest tragedy brings into yet starker relief the need for sensible gun control measures to counter the increasing loss of human life in what has become a clear and urgent public health imperative facing our nation.
According to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after 15 years of no real change, the rate of gun deaths in the U.S. rose for the second straight year.
As physicians and health science professionals, we dedicate our lives to humanity and its preservation. But these most precious values are at increasing risk in an environment where there is too much access, to too many guns, by too many people who should not have them.
Sadly, it was just five weeks ago that 58 people in Las Vegas were massacred at the hands of a heavily armed gunman. Indeed, this latest attack of gun violence in Texas underscores a persistent, alarming trend that is occurring with greater frequency in the U.S. when compared to the rest of the world.
Without a doubt, gun violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by mentally ill or violent individuals, and there is a woeful lack of resources to identify and treat these people. At the same time, our country’s debate over gun policy remains highly charged and polarized. Gun ownership is viewed by many as central to our constitutional freedoms, but the ravages inflicted by those who mean to do our fellow citizens harm are indisputable.
A recent Pew Research Center study found some encouraging common ground: Solid majorities of gun owners and non-owners alike agree when it comes to certain restrictions on those with a history of mental illness or on federal no-fly or watch lists. Our country must act now to address gun control in relation to the ease of access, particularly for these individuals.
As an educator of health professionals and a leading voice in the medical community, KCU has a role in spurring dialogue and encouraging action to reduce the devastating impact of gun violence on public health. Our oath as physicians and health professionals, and our allegiance to our university’s mission of “improving the well-being of the communities we serve” demand it.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their loved ones in Sutherland Springs, and in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernadino, Newtown and, on an almost daily basis, here in Kansas City. These incidences are becoming all too common, too much our “norm.” We now must live in a world where we are ever vigilant, prepared for the unthinkable, and always knowing that “life can turn on a dime.”
We must not become numb to this ongoing destructive toll on humanity and this growing global mood of hate. We must do what is right, and just —not only for the memories of those who were lost, but for our children, our children’s children and for the entire civilized world. As a former soldier, a conservative, and a onetime gun owner, I believe it is time to heed this very loud wake-up call.