People across the country and around the world woke to devastating news on Sunday morning – a legally armed gunman brutally massacred 49 people at a night club in Orlando. Key words: legally armed. While it is still too early to confirm the details of the shooter’s motives and how he accessed the assault rifle and handgun used in the mass murder, we are faced – yet again – with the consequences of Congress’ failure to act upon the obvious need for more effective gun control and the funding necessary to support gun violence research.
Gun violence is a major public health problem, and is the leading cause of premature death. And like all other public health problems, a comprehensive, research-based response is required. For starters, Congress has provided little to no funding to the Centers for Disease Control to collect data on gun violence and gun crimes. Public health has scant data to prove the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of current laws and programs intended to protect innocent victims. We have no data to tell us about the risk factors associated with gun violence, or the protective factors that guard against it. Without the evidence to build out truly responsive and impactful interventions, public health can only shadow box this opponent and hope to land a punch.
How many more “groups” need to be affected before Congress is inspired to take meaningful action? What victim, what venue, what shooter, what motive will tip the scales and erase the party lines which hold back effective change? The New Hampshire Public Health Association expresses its deepest sympathies for those affected by Sunday morning’s events, and vows to continue efforts to stop this tragic epidemic of preventable gun violence.
- Katie Robert, Board President