Like you, I woke up Monday morning to the horrific news that at least 50 people were dead and over 400 people injured at the kind of venue we have been to before: an open-air music event with thousands of people.
But this was not a terrorist attack in some foreign country. This was our country. The United States of America. The land of the free. But sadly, it is also the land of guns. Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every adult.
This time it was a 64-year-old white man who had amassed over 40 weapons and had carried over 20 of them into his hotel suite a few days earlier. These were semi-automatic weapons modified to shoot rounds so fast that in just 10 minutes he ended or injured over 500 lives. Not to mention the psychological damage for the thousands who escaped, survived, tended to others on the scene, transported them to hospitals or cared for them at the hospital.
I was in Chicago attending a healthcare forum on Monday. But no one was talking about what had happened. Are we so numb to gun violence in this country that we watch that initial news story in horror but then move on? Were the few hundred people in that meeting room with me distracted during the day and wanting to know more about what had happened? Were they quietly looking for answers? Instead of just looking at email on their phones were they looking for news updates and trying to comprehend this awfulness yet again?
I saw an alarming image and statistic today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.5 million Americans have been killed in the U.S. in gun related incidents since 1968. That is more than the 1.2 million service members killed in all the U.S. wars combined. The caption said, “We are at war with ourselves”.
All week long, we’ve heard people say this is not the time to talk about gun control. People argue that out of respect to the victims and their families, it’s too soon to talk about gun control. I must ask then, when is it time? When can we talk about it? As of Tuesday, there had already been 273 mass shootings (defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter) this year and Tuesday was the 275th day of the year. Out of respect to the victims, then there are no days when it’s ok to talk about gun control.
I would argue that out of respect to the victims and their families, we must talk about it. For our own families, we must talk about it.
Argue all you want for the right to bear arms to protect your family or to go deer hunting, there is no legitimate reason for someone to have an assault weapon. Period.
I have great admiration and respect for the first responders, the police, the hospital workers, and average citizens who helped save lives in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
I applaud the American College of Physicians which issued a statement on Monday calling mass shootings a “serious public health issue” and called for a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
I applaud legislators who are willing to talk about it and call for long overdue changes to gun laws.
I call on our local, state, and federal officials to talk about it and more importantly do something about it.
I don’t want to be afraid to go to a movie theater, an open-air concert, or get on a crowded train. And I don’t want my family to be afraid either. Nor should you.