Gun violence seems to have become inevitable in American society. The prevalent use of guns to cause significant harm and death in this country has skyrocketed in recent years. The constant news of gun violence from the media comes in such quick succession now that Americans no longer catch their breath. A new tragedy holds the public’s attention, and disheartening thoughts hold in our hearts.
Maine is only the latest state in this country to have witnessed or experienced some form of mass gun death, and access to these weapons by vulnerable individuals continues to raise concern. In 2021, 117,345 people were shot in this country, and 48,830 died of their injuries.
As a resident of Newtown, Cheryl has witnessed the detrimental effect of gun violence on a community. The December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook school shooting left an enduring mark on our close-knit town, shattering the community’s sense of security and leaving a deep emotional scar. This event generated a shared trauma that still resides in the recollections of community members, particularly parents and school personnel who tragically lost loved ones. We feel for the residents of Lewiston, who must now suffer in the same way.
Witnessing the physical and emotional burden these events impose on survivors and the healthcare system serves as a powerful reminder of the pressing necessity for thorough gun legislation. It profoundly connects with our roles as healthcare professionals, highlighting the severe impacts of gun violence on individuals.
Access to guns should be restricted to enhance firearm safety and mitigate gun violence in the United States. Implementing this policy proposal requires a multifaceted approach that addresses various aspects of firearm access, ownership, and security. By encouraging responsible gun ownership, implementing safe storage laws, and supporting community-based violence prevention programs, we could reduce firearm-related incidents and improve public safety.
Research consistently shows that states with universal background checks experience lower rates of firearm-related fatalities. A study analyzing the impact of the Brady Bill on national homicide and suicide rates indicated that states with universal background check laws saw a 35% decrease in firearm homicide rates compared to states without these laws.
Studies have shown that implementing waiting periods has also been associated with lower firearm suicide rates, with a 17% lower firearm suicide rate than states without such laws. Waiting periods reinforce public safety, ensuring that individuals obtaining firearms are legally fit and not present a danger to themselves or others.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) or red flag laws have effectively reduced gun violence. These laws enable concerned individuals to request a court order temporarily prohibiting access to firearms for individuals in crisis. Connecticut was the first state to enact the red flag law after a mass shooting at the Connecticut Lottery. As of May 2023, 21 states have enacted ERPO laws. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act allocates $750 million to states to implement crisis interventions like ERPOs.
While mental health’s role in gun violence is complex, addressing mental health alongside other measures can be impactful. A study published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2022 found that states with laws concerning mental health issues had lower rates of firearm suicides.
Safe storage laws, particularly child access prevention laws, have been associated with a 13% reduction in firearm suicide rates among adolescents. These laws help prevent unintentional firearm injuries, especially among children.
Implementing community-based violence prevention programs is crucial. These initiatives address the root causes of violence in specific communities by engaging with residents, organizations, and stakeholders. They aim to create safer environments and promote positive societal transformations.
While all of these measures have been implemented with success, California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently tried a new approach. He introduced a proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution on June 8, 2023. This Amendment includes an 11% excise tax on retailers and manufacturers for gun and ammunition sales, generating $160 million annually for school safety and gun violence intervention programs.
With its comprehensive gun control laws, California, like Connecticut, serves as a model for enhancing firearm safety. In 2021, California had the eighth-lowest gun death rate in the nation. Similarly, Connecticut had the sixth lowest gun death rate in the country; this can be attributed to the state’s stringent gun control measures and comprehensive firearm regulations. These states have long been at the forefront of gun safety advocacy, boasting the nation’s most comprehensive set of laws. Ranging from stringent background check prerequisites to implementing extreme risk protection orders and safeguards against domestic violence.
Opponents argue that stricter gun control measures may infringe on Second Amendment rights, and the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been a significant obstacle. However, polling data suggests that NRA’s positions do not align with those favored by the American public. The NRA has actively opposed every federal firearms regulation, from the 1934 National Firearms Act prohibiting machine guns to the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandated background checks for gun purchasers.
The nation can take steps toward a safer future by learning from states like California and Connecticut, which have robust firearm regulations and low gun death rates. While opposition exists, addressing firearm safety and reducing gun violence should remain at the forefront of public policy and public health efforts. Although there has been some headway in dealing with this concern at the national level, a significant amount of effort is still needed to guarantee communities’ safety and security.
We as healthcare providers, ask and plead with Connecticut’s state representatives and neighboring state representatives to back Gov. Newsom’s initiative on the 28th Amendment. It is crucial that we remain committed to continuously striving for policies that will prevent such tragic events from happening in the future.
Cheryl Mitchell is a Registered Nurse at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Gifty Quarm is a Registered Nurse at Manchester Memorial Hospital & Baystate Medical Center.
Both are candidates in the Doctor of Nursing Practice-Family Nurse Practitioner program at Sacred Heart University’s College of Nursing.