National School Walkout: Students Demand Change
At least 300 people on the Medical Campus, some braced against freezing temperatures with just their white lab coats, crowded together off Talbot Green. Planned by students at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the rally, like those at more than 2,500 middle and high schools and some universities across the country, lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Rebecca Webb (MED’20), Aldina Mesic (SPH’18), and Anita Knopov (MED’19) spoke on behalf of the students on the Medical Campus who believe that enough is enough. Here are their words:
Good morning, Boston University Medical Campus Community. My name is Anita Knopov and I am a medical student at Boston University School of Medicine.
My name is Aldina Mesic, and I am a public health student at the Boston University School of Public Health.
My name is Rebecca Webb, and I am a medical student at Boston University School of Medicine. Today we stand in solidarity with the victims of gun violence in Parkland, Florida and across the United States. In this moment, we unite with the National School Walkout movement to say “enough.”
We stand in solidarity as students who are troubled by the violent attacks upon our fellow young people, and outraged by the unwillingness of the United States Congress to reform gun laws. We also stand as representatives of the healthcare providers, researchers, and staff of Boston University Medical Campus, and in doing so, we recognize that with our healthcare degrees comes power and privilege, and the duty and responsibility to demand action for those who need it most, without exception. The ongoing crisis of gun violence in our country is a powerful issue that asks us how much we truly value protecting innocent lives. As researchers, we know that gun violence is a public health issue on a massive scale. It stretches far beyond the mass shootings that dominate our headlines and into the home, schools, and workplaces of millions of Americans.
We call upon our local, state, and national leaders to take swift and decisive action to neutralize this threat to our nation’s children and families. One month ago, on February 14th, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went to school expecting a normal day. It ended with an unimaginable tragedy. As we all know, 17 lives were lost and another 17 students were wounded by the indiscriminate firing of a semi-automatic rifle. Soon after, we settled into our now too-familiar routine. The national media offered wall-to-wall coverage. We shed tears for the victims, we sent thoughts and prayers to their families. We called upon Congress to reform our gun laws.
And Congress refused to act.
We have been here before. Time and time again, we have watched in agony as mass shooters harm our schools and communities. Time and time again, we have seen our elected representatives sit idly by, offering empty promises or denying the severity of the problem. On April 20, 1999, 12 students and 1 teacher were killed at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Congress refused to act.
On December 14, 2012, 20 children and 6 adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Congress refused to act.
In 2015, 9 African Americans were fatally attacked at their church in South Carolina. In 2016, 49 people were murdered at a LGBTQ nightclub in Florida. In 2017, 58 people were shot to death at a Las Vegas concert in Nevada. And, in the month that has passed since the Parkland shooting, there have been 16 mass shootings with a total of 16 people killed and 59 injured.
Today, we stand here to say “enough.” We say “enough” to an endless cycle of violence and inaction. We say “enough” to the undue influence of the NRA.
Because as medical professionals, we know that the problem of gun violence goes far beyond the mass shootings covered by the media. We know that there were nearly 38,000 gun deaths in the United States in 2016.
We know that firearms are the third-leading cause of death for children in the United States. We know that on average, 96 people die from firearm-related injuries every day. At Boston Medical Center, we understand the tremendous impact the gun epidemic has on the communities we serve. But mass shootings are only part of the picture. In Boston, gun violence disproportionately affects males, young people, and people of color. We estimate that less than 9% of violent gun encounters are gang-related. Most stem from violent personal incidents, such as domestic violence.
We also understand it on a deeply personal level. As the largest safety-net hospital in all of New England and a Level 1 trauma center, we treat the victims of gun violence on a daily basis. We tend to the dying and wounded. We comfort suffering family members. We counsel those with PTSD and other mental health issues in the aftermath of gun violence. And we are not alone. Medical institutions across the country have taken up the cause, gathering on campuses to remind the world that Gun Reform is Healthcare Reform, and that Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue. And as a public health issue, we need to be able to research and determine how best to reduce gun violence in our nation. And yet, since 1996, a Congressional Measure known as the Dickey Amendment has virtually barred the Center for Disease Control from allocating any funds for firearms-related research. Along with the National Walkout Movement and Doctors for America, we call upon Congress to repeal the Dickey Amendment and free the CDC to fund this life-saving research. We also call upon Congress to implement universal background checks, ban assault rifles (particularly those with magazines that carry large capacity ammunition), and keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders.
It may seem that achieving even these modest goals is nearly impossible. But, recent experience tells us that we can make gun reform a reality. In fact, the American people are on our side. Data has consistently shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor universal background checks. In a 2014 poll, public support was over 90%. In 2016, California, Nevada, and Washington all passed ballot initiatives mandating common-sense gun restrictions, despite multimillion-dollar lobbying efforts from the NRA.
And let us not forget the inspiring example set by the students of Stoneman Douglas High School, who, in the face of tragedy, have used the national spotlight to urge political and corporate leaders to address gun violence. They have pressured dozens of companies into cutting ties with the NRA, and, pushed retailers to restrict the sale of assault rifles. Their tireless efforts have shifted our national dialogue and brought us here for the National School Walkout. And it is with their example in mind that we now summon you all with an immediate CALL TO ACTION.
We repeat: The time for action is NOW.
Here are a few things that you can do to make gun reform a reality today:
ONE: Attend the “Community Forum on Gun Violence” from 1- 2:15 pm in Hiebert Lounge.
TWO: Call your local, state, and national representatives and demand that they make gun law reforms. Contact information will be provided at the forum and online through the School of Public Health
THREE: Post on social media and use the hashtags linking us to our fellow colleagues across the nation: #Enough, #DoctorsDemandAction, #WhiteCoatsAgainstGunViolence
FOUR: Join the Doctors Demand Action Facebook group. There, we will provide more information for the March For Our Lives Event in the Boston Commons on Saturday, March 24
And so, to our fellow students, faculty, and staff, we invite you to join us as part of a united Boston University Medical Campus, as we fight to make our city and our country safer. We say “enough” to senseless gun violence. We say “enough” to the NRA’s politics of fear. We say “enough” to congressional inaction. As healthcare professionals, we declare gun violence to be a public health issue. And we commit ourselves to fighting this problem as part of our mission to provide “exceptional care without exception.”