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.

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

Trump Asks, ‘What About the Alt-Left?’ Here’s an Answer.

There was a post earlier today on our Facebook page showing that violence by white supremacist groups over the past 13 years far exceeded violence by leftists.  Here’s more evidence, courtesy of The Cato Institute (!) via the New York Times.

…overall, far-right extremist plots have been far more deadly than far-left plots (and Islamist plots eclipsed both) in the past 25 years, according to a breakdown of two terrorism databases by Alex Nowrasteh, an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.

White nationalists; militia movements; anti-Muslim attackers; I.R.S. building and abortion clinic bombers; and other right-wing groups were responsible for 12 times as many fatalities and 36 times as many injuries as communists; socialists; animal rights and environmental activists; anti-white- and Black Lives Matter-inspired attackers; and other left-wing groups.

Of the nearly 1,500 individuals in a University of Maryland study of radicalization from 1948 to 2013, 43 percent espoused far-right ideologies, compared to 21 percent for the far left. Far-right individuals were more likely to commit violence against people, while those on the far left were more likely to commit property damage.

March for Science

Come join us today at the March for Science in downtown Columbus.  We’ll be marching in our white coats to support the important role of science in public policy and to protest the Trump administration’s assault on the climate and on healthcare.

Even if you didn’t make the rally, come meet us afterwards at Milestone 229 – 229 Civic Center Drive in Columbus.  We’ll be there around 12:30.

If you’re looking at this site for the first time, here’s a brief statement of who we are:
We are Central Ohio physicians and other health professionals committed to progressive values and causes united against the reactionary political agenda of the current national, state and that may adversely affect our patients.  These include threats to the environment and the health local administrations.  As health care providers, we are concerned with issues of health policy of our planet; to the rights of immigrants; to equality and justice for all minorities whether they be racially, gender or orientation based; to fair labor practices, and opportunities for the poor and socially marginalized; to halting the epidemic of deaths and injuries due to firearms in America.

We are physicians, nurses, social workers, scientists.  We see first-hand the devastating impact of racism, economic injustice, toxic exposures, preventable illness and violence on our patients.  We recognize the role of scientific research in guiding both medical practice and rational policy.  We deeply oppose the current administration’s attempts to suppress scientific research conducted and supported by the Federal Government, as well as the campaign of misinformation the US government is attempting to foist on the American public.  We counter this with true, fact-based information and act in support of rational, humane policy that reflects the true American values of honesty, compassion, equality and justice.

We stand united against the unbalanced power of a President and a Republican majority in the Senate, the House, and the Ohio legislature.  But by joining together in this group, and by joining with other groups, we have power.  On the web and on social media, we support evidence based medicine and facts.  We can make our voices heard publically, at rallies and demonstrations, as public speakers and media spokespeople.  We can communicate with elected officials.  Those who support a progressive agenda need our help, and those who oppose it need to understand that there will be a price to pay.  We can raise funds and speak out for candidates who share our views.  We are one part of a movement that is growing by the day.  We believe we can make a difference.

Student Hunger Strike to Protest Wendy’s Exploitation of Farm Workers

Many thanks to Dave Chapin, who notified us of an Ohio State University student hunger strike to pressure the university to end its contract with Wendy’s – the only major fast food chain that refuses to support the Fair Food Program.  These students fasted for seven straight days to get the attention of OSU administration.  They did get a meeting with OSU officials, but no commitment to terminate Wendy’s franchise on the ground floor of University Hospital.

The Fair Food Program was started thirty years ago by agricultural workers in Immokalee, Florida, to try to improve conditions for agricultural workers, who were paid poverty wages and faced unsafe (sometimes fatal) working conditions.   Under the program, retailers agree to purchase food only from Fair Food certified producers.  They also pay a small premium (about $1 per 1000 pounds of produce) to support the Fair Foods Standards Council.

By all accounts, the program has been a great success.

McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell have all signed on.  Even Walmart participates.  However, Wendy’s (with its headquarters in Dublin, OH) has been the holdout. Continue reading “Student Hunger Strike to Protest Wendy’s Exploitation of Farm Workers”