POV: Again and Again. Mass Shootings Continue Unabated in the United States.
POV: Again and Again. Mass Shootings Continue Unabated in the United States
In a new POV for BU Today, Dean Sandro Galea asserts that it well beyond time for the US to move collectively to common-sense gun safety reform that can make a difference
A version of this article originally appeared in BU Today.
On January 16, a shooting in Goshen, Calif., claimed the lives of six people, including a mother and her baby. Five days later, 11 people were killed at a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., at a celebration of the Lunar New Year. And on January 23, seven people were killed in a mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, Calif. It was horrific, yet again, to watch these events unfold.
Mass shootings touch the lives of those who had previously, like most of us, looked at the gun violence epidemic from the outside. And yet these mass shootings all are part of a long-term, familiar dynamic, a broken status quo we have not yet been able to fix. Over the past decade we have had an increasing drumbeat of prayers from politicians, a growing outcry on social media, and yet we continue to have more gun violence deaths and injuries than ever before, punctuated by periodic mass shootings that penetrate public consciousness. I found myself shaken by these recent visible mass shootings in California, even as I am aware that there have already been 39 mass shootings this year, many of them barely registering in our public conversation.
And so, again and again, we search for words that can find meaning, that can shift our thinking. But perhaps there is little new to say, because the arguments have been made, and what is left is for us to act. I went back and looked at what I have said over the past eight years about the topic, since becoming dean of the School of Public Health. And in many ways what I have said over time still holds today, all of it. The headlines, the stories, are the same. We have been living these stories over and over.
Is it not time for us collectively to move to the common-sense gun safety reform that can make a difference? The recent bipartisan legislation on the issue was one ray of hope, the first such legislation in decades. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end of the gun violence epidemic. Or perhaps, and more likely, it is nowhere near enough. Tackling this issue will require a shift in how we think about guns, recognizing that having so many deadly weapons so widely available will inevitably result in an intolerable burden of injury and death, and that a solution will need to include comprehensive gun safety legislation that ensures safe use of guns and limits access to those who are likely to do harm.
Gun violence research is significantly underfunded at the federal level and as a result the academic community has only slowly come to see this issue as one that should be at the center of our attention. After years of research and convenings, including a special issue of the American Journal of Public Health on gun violence, we are seeing more and scholarship emerging that is commensurate with the scope of this crisis. I recently had the privilege of chairing a task force commissioned by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health that produced a report that aims to help move public health schools and programs to the center of the gun violence conversation, to seeing this as the public health issue it is, one that requires action, yes, and perhaps action that can be catalyzed by the scholarship, education, and practice that emerges from universities who see this gun violence epidemic for what it is—a preventable problem that is calling for action that can save tens of thousands of lives every year.
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