When I heard the news about the latest shooting of children in Connecticut, I was like so many others, appalled and outraged. Echoing so many other reasonable people, I wonder when will all this end. As someone who writes about healthcare, I also thought, not only about the trauma to those poor children, teachers, and their families, but to all the healthcare workers who have to deal with this endless march of carnage. First responders, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, etc. For each person who dies and as well as who survives there are many who work in healthcare, trying to help others who are witnesses to this never ending tragedy of human cruelty and cowardice. The cowardice of political leaders — leaders in name only — in my view, far outweighs the cruelty of those who perpetrate these deeds. Indeed, this cowardice is an act of cruelty toward all the innocent victims of people who are clearly out of their minds. While I deplore the violence of the people who wreak this havoc on innocents, they are mentally ill — each and every one of them. They are beyond reason. But the politicians who toady to the gun lobby, who take their money, and parrot their lines, these people are the enablers of violence — the are accessories both before and after the fact. They make it possible for the crazed gunmen to continue to procure the means to terrorize innocent victims over and over again. Unlike the madmen who perpetrate these acts of violence — often turning their weapons on themselves — those who are charged with serving the public instead do us a disservice with their specious arguments and rationalizations. People like Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, are clearly beyond hope, when they claim that those favoring gun control “have the blood of little children on their hands.” What would he propose, arming kindergarteners? Making target practice, with real guns (preferably semi-automatics) a requirement of first grade phys ed?).
The failure of political will has two major components — one the failure to enact reasonable gun control laws. The second is the failure to adequately fund mental healthcare in the US. Every single one of these crazy shooters has been a crazy shooter. They have all had serious mental problems that have either gone undetected or untreated. We learn about this malignant neglect when they turn their weapons on others and then on themselves.
Again, this is where healthcare professionals come in. We need a major outcry from those in healthcare — a healthcare professional/workers movement to protest the parade of bodies received in our hospitals, rehab facilities etc and in our morgues. Can we start a facebook cause, a twitter campaign, pintrests or youtube or whatever. We need to call our legislators, raise our voices. Individual shock and outrage are not enough. In his excellent op-ed A Tragedy of Silence, New York Times Columnist Charles M. Blow cites some important statistics that should guide us all. In a recent Gallup poll, 50% of Americans said they were satisfied with the nation’s laws and policies on guns while 42% were not. In 2011, 53% were against a law that would make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns, while 43% were in favor. So we have an eight to ten percentage point gap between those who favor violence as an American right and those who don’t. Our work is to reverse that percentage gap. We need to convince eight to ten percent of the American people that, as Gail Collins put it in her Times column this morning, the founding fathers did not want “to make sure Americans retained their right to carry rifles capable of mowing down dozens of people in a couple of minutes,” when they crafted the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Sitting in Starbucks this morning having coffee with friends, I wondered how many Americans were thinking what I was: everyone of us is vulnerable because of high level political inaction and cowardice. We are sitting here calmly chatting, sipping our lattes and frappucinos but at any minute, some nut case could walk in the door and take aim. Which is why, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in response to this latest catastrophe of our own making, “Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action.”