The battle against firearm violence in the United States has been re-energized in recent years. Brandy Zadrozny introduces the combatants:
While the AAP has been advocating for an end to gun violence for some 30 years now, the shooting in Newtown shocked the nation and galvanized the AAP’s doctors to redouble their efforts in support of new gun-control measures. Newtown pediatrician Laura Nowacki lost eight of her patients in the massacre at Sandy Hook. “I’ve never spoken to the media until all of this happened. But I really believe I have to stand up. I have to use my voice,” she told the AAP News in June.
Several more Newtown victims were patients of Dr. Richard Auerbach; he’d held two of them in his arms in the delivery room where they were born. Auerbach, along with other pediatricians, wrote to Congress last year in support of an ultimately doomed measure to ban semiautomatic assault weapons brought by Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat.
“These guns, these bullets blew open these children’s heads, their bodies, their limbs,” Auerbach wrote. “In what kind of society do we live, whereby these weapons are needed to defend and protect?”
And in the other corner:
For its part, the National Rifle Association (NRA) says pediatricians have no business talking about gun laws. “The AAP has a long history of advocating for gun control measures that a majority of the American people have rejected time and time again,” says NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen, citing in particular the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which it says has been used to teach gun safety to over 27 million children since 1988.
“The fact is, no one does more to promote gun safety, education, and training than the National Rifle Association,” Mortensen says. “And if these pediatricians want to help us promote that message, we would welcome their membership in the NRA. Dues are 25 dollars a year.”
Mortensen’s sarcasm aside, I’d bet there is more common ground between the AAP and the NRA than meets they eye. But the NRA spokesperson thinks that pediatricians have “no business” talking about gun laws? Really? Then who’s business is it then? Only lawyers? Only politicians? Not physicians? Not mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers? Ordinary Americans should be totally comfortable ordering a burrito at Chipotle’s next to another American with a semi-automatic rifle strapped to his shoulder? Ordinary Americans should be okay with a Georgia law allowing gun owners to carry their firearms openly in public places, including schools and churches? Ordinary Americans should be fine living with these statistics?
An estimated 20,600 people under the age of 25 are injured by a gun every year and 6,570 die, according to the AAP. Guns kill twice as many in this age group as cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 20 times as many as infections.
Apparently, the NRA thinks all is well and the rest of us ordinary Americans should just shut up. But it doesn’t stop there:
Most recently, the NRA and the AAP have been embroiled in a very public legal feud over the rights of doctors to talk with parents about gun safety. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a NRA-sponsored law that forbade pediatricians from asking about guns in the home. A federal judge later struck down the law as unconstitutional and a decision on the state’s appeal is pending. The NRA has sponsored similar legislation in at least five other states—Alabama, North Carolina, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.
There’s also the issue of funding for federal research—of which there has been almost none. Even after President Obama lifted the long freeze on gun research—lobbied for and won by the NRA in 1996—Congress still has yet to appropriate the $10 million in funds promised to the CDC for gun research, an amount that even if released would be too little for quality research, according to pediatricians I spoke with. But the amount isn’t likely to matter. As a researcher who spend over $1 million funding his own work put it, “Hell will freeze over before this Congress gives them [the CDC] money.” Moreover, the long moratorium has resulted in a paucity of qualified experts to research firearm injuries.
Eventually the NRA is going to lose this battle. Time and again, Americans come around sooner or later (usually later, but better late than never) and do the right thing. Zadrozny gets the money quote from a pediatrician:
“[I]n general, pediatricians are never really that far ahead of American families. There are 60,000 of us and we see almost every American child almost every year. If the pediatricians are strong on this issue, it’s hard for me to believe that there will be such a discrepancy over what we believe and what the families we care for believe.”
Here’s another reason:
We’re gonna talk about it, alright. We’ll start by “ASK”-ing a simple question tomorrow.