March for our Lives

The student survivors from the Parkland shooting are planning a march in Washington on March 24th.

Their mission is to pivot America’s long-running gun control debate — which tends to flare up with each mass shooting — toward meaningful action.

“We want this to stop. We need this to stop. We are protecting guns more than people,” said Emma González, 18, one of five core organizers, whose impassioned speech at a rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday drew national attention. “We are not trying to take people’s guns away; we are trying to make sure we have gun safety.”

I’m going to try to make it. I hope as many people as possible attend. Let’s make this a point in the fight for sensible gun laws.

This, from the ABC News story:

“Any politician on either side who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this,” the high school junior said of the shooting on Feb. 14 that killed 17 students and teachers at the school. “At the end of the day, the NRA is fostering and promoting this gun culture.”
Kasky said the point is to “create a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s accepting money from the NRA.”

How to put an end to mass shootings

Fourteen children were killed because Nikolas Cruz had an assault rifle. Fourteen children who were loved, who had a future, and who went to school on a perfectly average day died in a half-hour shooting spree. Three caring adults lost their lives trying to protect the kids. Fifteen people were wounded; hundreds will live their lives with the memory of that day. All of us were, in some way, terrorized.

Nikolas Cruz was not an evil genius who would have found some way to slaughter children no matter what. He was a depressed, angry teenager who acted on impulse. Angry, impulsive people can do awful things, but it’s hard to kill that many people without a very powerful weapon.

Fifty-eight people died when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd with assault rifles in Las Vegas in October, 2017. Omar Mateen killed forty-nine people with an assault rifle in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.

I’m going to say the obvious: these weapons should not be available to the public. I don’t care how many responsible gun enthusiasts enjoy using them at firing ranges. Their enjoyment is trivial compared with the lives lost and the havoc created when these guns are used for mass murder. I don’t even care that some people feel they need an assault rifle to protect their homes from burglars. They can do that perfectly well with a revolver.

The United States should ban assault weapons. By ban, I mean: it should be illegal to buy, sell or transfer assault weapons or ammunition. Perhaps even owning one should be illegal. They did this in Australia, with the government buying back those weapons in circulation (and they haven’t had a mass shooting there since).

Obviously, this would be anathema to the gun lobby and the politicians who support it. That should not stop Progressives from taking a firm stand against assault weapons. This is a matter of public health and safety and plain common sense; and two thirds of Americans support it.

As for why gun restrictions don’t get political traction, I’m quoting from an article in yesterday’s Dispatch:

Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, said, “It’s mostly hyperbole that campaign contributions can directly buy votes in Congress.”

Instead, he said, the issue falls on strictly ideological grounds: Republicans rarely stray from the party’s stance of opposing new gun restrictions while Democrats — once far more divided on the issue – have dug in on the notion of additional restrictions.

“The debate is on clear party and ideological lines,” he said.

And while Democrats have become more vocal on the issue, it’s episodic. No one is shutting down the government over gun ontrol.

“It’s not like it’s the No. 1 issue in the Democratic Party,” he said.

This is an issue on which we need to stay active. We can’t just react to the latest shooting and then move on to something else a week later. We need to communicate to the political candidates we support that protecting the public from gun violence is a top priority. And as far as the politicians who won’t listen to that argument: you already know. We need to vote them out.

To get involved:
Ohioans for Gun Safety
Central Ohio Brady Campaign
Ohio Moms Demand Action

Please note that not all these groups are advocating for an assault weapons ban – but they are working for more sensible gun laws that will help to reduce gun deaths in the state.

Question

Which is worth more: the right of millions of gun owners to shoot semi-automatic weapons at ranges for fun, or the life of one child?

There are too many guns in America. The weapons used in mass shootings are far too easy for killers to obtain.

The solutions are readily available. A semi-automatic weapons ban would be legal, feasible and effective.

We need to elect leaders who will take sensible step to protect children and everyone else from gun violence.

The Politics of Deception – Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, and how we got to this political moment

I just finished reading Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean. I found it a very useful and fairly alarming guide to the ideas that motivate the Republicans’ legislative agenda. What lurks behind the tax cut, the denial of climate change, the efforts to restrict voting rights, and other seemingly disparate initiatives is a very clear, well-defined vision of society that the Republicans don’t want to share publically. If they did, most of us would find it quite brutal and undemocratic. Interestingly, if they succeed in achieving their vision, Trump voters (i.e. non-college-educated whites living in economically struggling areas) will be among those who suffer the most.

Continue reading “The Politics of Deception – Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, and how we got to this political moment”

At last – the blue wave

Our wedding anniversary falls just after election day. Though we live in Ohio now, we go back when we can to spend it with close friends in Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod. There’s a particular feel to the Provincetown in November, with the tourist season ending, most of the shops closed, the wind freezing cold off the Atlantic, the sky overcast and the locals bunkering down for the winter.

I have a very vivid memory of how utterly desolate we felt last year (probably because we continued to feel that way until this morning). It was just an utter rout for our party, our values, our faith. We couldn’t even talk about the election – nor could we bring ourselves to talk about anything else. I remember seeing on the TV in the airport, on the way home, that Gwen Eiffel had died and it somehow seemed to seal the doom that had overtaken us. Continue reading “At last – the blue wave”

Major mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas

I’m deeply sorry to see that there’s been another mass shooting: this time in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas,  a rural town with a population of 1000.  Upwards of twenty people are dead and 30 wounded.  Our hearts go out to the people of Sutherland Springs.

It is not politicizing the tragedy  to say that these events do not need to happen.  No other country has mass shootings on the scale, and with the frequency, of the United Sates.  We know how to prevent them.  We summarized the evidence on public safety measure to prevent mass shootings in our position paper.  What it take is the will to act.

Your voice matters.  There are many groups active locally and nationally on gun violence prevention.  Consider joining or supporting one.  There are also several good bills to prevent gun violence pending in the Ohio legislature.   Your representatives need to hear from you that this matters.  You can also call your federal elected officials to support Chris  Murphy’s bill to expand background checks for gun purchases – a measure supported even by most gun owners.

Here’s the website to find your Ohio and federal elected officials.

Please speak out and support rational, feasible  measures against gun violence.  We can’t bring back the people shot in Sutherland Springs; but we can stop future massacres.

How to Prevent Mass Shootings – PAN Position Paper

On October 1, 2017, the United States witnessed the worst mass shooting in its history.  While innocent people were enjoying a country music concert 32 floors below, a man who had no criminal history opened fire on them from a hotel window and, using battlefield weapons and ammunition he had purchased legally, killed 58 and injured over 500 others.

Can catastrophes like this be prevented?  Sometimes it seems hopeless.  We’ve seen one horrific shooting after another in recent years, yet our political system seems unable to enact common sense legislation to prevent these events.  Many have come to believe in the myth of the invincible gun lobby.

The United States is not the only nation to suffer from mass shootings; however, the problem is far worse here than anywhere else in the world.  A comparative study of 171 countries showed a close correlation between the availability of firearms and the rate of mass shootings.  Americans own 89 guns per 100 persons, compared with a worldwide average of 14 per 100 (these are not evenly distributed – 66% of households have no gun, and 3% have more than 25).  Between 1966 and 2012, the international per-country average for mass shootings (defined as episodes in which 3 or more people were killed by the same shooter) was 1.7.  In that time, the U.S. had 90.

As physicians and public health experts, we’re accustomed to tackling tough, seemingly intractable problems.  Polio once ravaged the nation in recurrent epidemics.  Now it has all but vanished in the Western Hemisphere. Automobile fatalities have dropped more than 90% since the 1950’s due to research and implementation of motor vehicle safety measures.  Cancer is a devastating condition of enormous biological complexity; yet we can now prevent or effectively treat the majority of common malignancies.

Mass shootings have been increasing in frequency and severity over the past decade.  The easy, legal availability of powerful guns and ammunition greatly facilitates these attacks.

No single law or action would completely eliminate the possibility of a mass shooting.  However, we would like to propose several entirely constitutional and feasible measures that, taken together, could substantially reduce their frequency and severity. Continue reading “How to Prevent Mass Shootings – PAN Position Paper”

Update on updates

We’ve been a bit haphazard in posting on this site.  For one thing, I didn’t think many people were viewing it, so I’ve been looking at it as more of a test site than a real communication tool.  For another thing: I’m a doctor.  We’re all doctors in the Physicians Action Network.  We’re incredibly busy.  It’s hard to find time to post.

On the other hand: as we’ve worked and met over the past six months, we’re each found ourselves drawn to particular issues.  We find that we have – not just opinions – but accumulating knowledge in certain areas.

For me, it’s climate change and gun violence prevention.  For others in the group, it’s access health care, reproductive rights, social and racial equality, LGBTQ issues.

So, we’ve committed to putting what we learn about these issues into writing in the form of blog posts, white papers, resource pages, etc.   This site will be the repository; and as we post  documents here, we’ll try to keep people posted via social media.

We’re nearly one year into the Trump presidency.  We figure it’s going to be a long haul.   We’re not counting on his being impeached; and, even if he were, we’d be left with Mike Pence, who would likely be just as malign from a policy perspective, and more effective than Trump.

The future of our human dignity, of democracy, and, of our planet are at stake.

None of us can change the world by ourselves; but, for our part, we’ll try to put scientific truth up to counter the stream of misinformation and propaganda coming from the right-wing media and the White House.  We’ll try to influence politics here in Ohio; and we’ll join forces with other groups to hold the line locally and nationally.

Fellow Travelers