Congress Must Take Immediate Action on Violence Prevention and Gun Reform – Hartford Courant

Uvalde. Buffalo. Park. New city. Four communities forever changed by gun violence. Four communities representing a small fraction of gun violence in the United States, where more than 100 persons are killed every day by firearms. Four of the many communities that deserve action.

Gun violence in the United States is a public health crisis.

I witnessed the aftermath of this crisis ten years ago when my community in western Connecticut was deeply shaken by a senseless attack that claimed the lives of 20 young students and six educators at Sandy Elementary School. Hook. Like so many others, I waited to see widespread action that would prevent this terrible tragedy from repeating itself. I was disappointed.

Now is the time for the nation’s medical community and public officials to take urgent action to address gun violence as a public health crisis.

There is no single solution to the problem of gun violence in the United States. To truly address this crisis, we need to look at its many causes, find solutions both big and small that work together to create meaningful change.

Imagine if we approached gun violence with the same level of urgency as COVID-19? We could bring together government officials, leaders from the medical and business communities, educators, and community and advocacy organizations to create a comprehensive plan to end gun violence.

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This work must begin at the highest levels of government, with the prevention of armed violence. We cannot once again sit idly by without taking action to prevent the tragic event at Uvalde from happening again, as we did with Sandy Hook. Since 2017, armed violence officially replaced road accidents as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents. I call on Congress to take immediate action on violence prevention and gun reform. We owe it to survivors and bereaved families of gun violence to stop this terrible cycle.

As with any public health crisis, we must invest in thorough research to examine the problem, identify the root causes, and create a plan to treat and prevent it. I am heartened that last year CDC Director Rochelle Walensky reinforced the agency’s emphasis on research on gun violence as a public health issue.

While we focus on prevention, we must also recognize the impact of these tragedies on our individual and collective mental health, especially for children and adolescents. Just as students learn and practice how to react if a shooter enters their school, they should be encouraged to talk about these experiences with a trained professional. Health care providers should work with their education partners to create these programs. At the same time, it is essential that we take steps to increase access to behavioral health care, so that everyone – whether a survivor, a loved one or someone affected by media coverage – have continued access to the support they need.

Healthcare providers have a responsibility to support this critical work, which will save lives and make the communities we serve healthier and safer places for our patients, neighbors and families. Our hospitals and medical practices are deeply rooted in the communities we serve. We can leverage this connection to help with gun violence research, in addition to implementing meaningful programs to help reduce gun violence. We can then bring our work at the local level to collaborative conversations across the healthcare industry, coming together to develop strategies to address the crisis.

None of this work can be done in a vacuum, and we cannot change America’s culture of gun violence overnight. We can, however, take an important first step by coming together to tackle this public health crisis.

Together we can save lives.

John M. Murphy is President and CEO of Nuvance Health.

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