A gunman in Wisconsin killed 6 Sikh worshippers and injured 3 others on August 5th. We hadn’t even stopped talking about how James Holmes managed to kill 12 people and injure another 58 in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th. The response to these types of now commonplace tragedies has been predictable. Our nation grieves for the victims, and the outpouring of sympathy and support is genuine. But we’ve heard these stories before, and it’s safe to say that most of us have seen enough. When was the tipping point for you? Was it after Columbine? Maybe at Fort Hood or Virginia Tech? Or perhaps in Tucson? These locations have become synonymous with violent tragedies at the hands of gunmen.
I had seen enough after spending two months on the trauma service at Sinai-Grace Hospital, in one of the roughest parts of Detroit, during my third year in medical school. This is one of countless places in our country where the gun violence is commonplace, and manages to simply fly under the radar. We would see at least two or three gunshot wounds each call night, and aside from an occasional story in the local paper the next day, you wouldn’t know it unless you worked at the hospital.
The low point for me was one morning when 4 people were brought in at the same time with gunshot wounds from a man that opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon at a daycare center. I was taking care of a 3-year-old girl (3-years-old!) who was shot in the head. I remember coding her while working to determine the course of the bullet, which went in the back of her skull and came out from the top of her head. She didn't make it. I remember agonizing about what anyone could have done to deserve such a fate, let alone a 3-year-old girl.
The hand-wringing over what our response to these tragedies should be has long grown weary. Eventually the debate fades with the media cycle, and it’s forgotten until the next massacre. Lather, rinse, repeat. We’re better than this. This isn’t about the 2nd amendment or the NRA. It’s about common sense.
Guns kill people. Where there are more guns, there is more homicide. Where there are more guns, there are more suicides. When compared to other high-income countries, the United States has far higher rates of firearm deaths. Semi-automatic weapons are intended solely to kill people and they should be banned. Full stop.
As an internist and a pediatrician, I care for both adults and children. I take great pride in helping prevent illness and injury, in keeping my patients healthy and thriving. I consider this one of our most fundamental responsibilities as physicians, and it is on this basis that we should stand unequivocally for far stricter gun control laws in the United States. Quite simply, this type of legislation would save lives, and it’s long overdue. It’s time we demand it. Enough is enough.