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Let’s not wait until the next time

Somebody reading this could very well be the next victim of an act of gun violence if we don't act now.

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Here we are again. Another mass shooting. Actually, two mass shootings. The first was in El Paso, Texas where 20 people were massacred. Another two individuals subsequently died in the hospital. The second massacre occurred hours later in Dayton, Ohio. Thus far 9 have been killed in Ohio. Stay tuned… A deadly weekend of mass shootings to be clear. It has become incredibly easy to just accept these murders. And we almost never spend time on the anguish of those harmed who are rehabbing physically and mentally, let alone their loved ones caring for them. The total number of human beings affected by gun violence is much higher than the number of those who are murdered, and we should cite those numbers to further compel our leaders to act.

The 24-hour news cycle often requires us to move on to the next hot button issue. Many of these next issues are welcomed by some leaders so as not to continue to shine a bright light on the problem that is gun violence. Remember after Parkland, it was let’s focus on arming teachers; it was let’s focus on increasing the number of security guards. Remember after Sandy Hook, it was let’s focus on mental health. After these most recent mass shootings, the problem is video games. We have even seen humans killed on live TV as if it were some episode of the TV show 24. We have become inured. Sadly, this is real life and real human beings are being taken away from us. There’s no father-daughter wedding dance, or future prom pictures for these kids.

Gun control advocates (including myself) want to pull our hair out every time these events occur, and many come on TV and say let’s take away the guns. Too often when gun control advocates make the case for gun control, the discussion devolves into: they are coming to take away your guns. To be clear: No. A better approach would be how to make gun ownership safer. One clear problem is the sheer number of guns. This piece highlights the scale of the problem, the lack of research on buyback programs and the dearth of studies on guns. If you want to have a gun in the home, go for it. Quite simply, living in a home with a gun increases your chances of death.  Certainly we can agree to further study this issue like we would any other public health crisis. We clearly have a problem in this country that is in a different stratosphere compared to other countries. In fact, it is not even close. If we are the shining light on the hill, we have work to do.

Speaking of which, let’s discuss working on our problems like gun violence. It is not a sign of weakness to analyze, critique and correct. A simple analogy would be as a parent, if my kid earns a B, I would do everything in my power to empower them to work harder at earning an A the next time. Simply put, if you think our ability to address this problem of gun violence in our communities is stellar, then I have a bridge to sell you. If you think there is room for improvement, then let’s discuss this candidly, study it and be better, or be best. Increased funding for mental health experts: Great, let’s do it. Banning bump stocks: Check. Limiting the sale of high-volume magazines: Fantastic. Red flag laws, where individuals who are a danger have limited access to guns: Yes please. Background checks: Agreed. The notion that doing everything keeps us from doing one of these is not acceptable. That is not a full faith effort at fixing this problem.

Americans fortunately are not waiting for their elected officials to make difficult decisions. The communities in El Paso and Dayton are already lining up to give blood, to help those in need. Let’s not pretend that waiting in line in El Paso or Dayton in the middle of the summer is an easy thing to do. Lining up in 90-100 plus degree weather, to then have a needle placed in one’s arm would make even the most experienced of us at donating blood queasy. Citizens immediately stepping up to act is what we do as Americans. Hopefully our elected leaders who represent us can do the same. Again, to be painfully clear: no one wants to come to your home to take away your gun. Perhaps gun owners might recognize the benefit however of selling their guns via a government buyback to unload the mass quantities of guns in homes. The simple reality is these massacres are happening at an all too frequent clip. The consequences of not acting are grave. Someone reading this right now will die at the hands of semiautomatic rifle if we do not act. We must call our congressional leaders and remind them today, tomorrow and next week that it is time to act. Hopefully we won’t have to do this on our phones, while we are in line, waiting to donate blood for the victims of the next massacre.

A. Kyle Mack, MD is a child advocate, pediatric hematologist and former Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project through Northwestern University

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