A call to collective leadership to end gun violence

A call to collective leadership to end gun violence

December 16, 2012

This editorial is authored by a physician who has seen life and death but cannot believe what he saw today. It is submitted by a former White House Fellow who champions every part of the bill of rights; but wonders why a teacher owned a semiautomatic rifle, a Glock and a Sig Sauer and how her deranged son got access to them. It is written by a citizen who carries tremendous patriotism but cannot hold his head up with pride in a country that allows her 5-year-olds to be hunted mercilessly. It is written by a fellow human being who cannot fathom what it was like to be the parent of a child who waited seconds, minutes, eternities before finally being informed that their child would never emerge from those double doors that once welcomed their child. The same doors that posted their classroom assignments, displayed class photos and put them in cocoon of education, friendship and love.

This editorial is not about gun control. It is not about locking up every citizen with a mental disability. It is not about abstract, amorphous and massive societal reform to fix people’s values, religion or thought process.

This editorial is a call to action. It is a physician’s order, a former public servant’s rally, a citizen’s proposal, and a human being’s plea to come together to do something. It is a call for leadership to staunch the hemorrhage before this nightmare becomes the new normal.

Leaves fall. Babies cry. The sun rises. But it is not a fact of life or a law of nature that innocent little boys and girls are slaughtered in broad daylight in schools. Schools. Schools were once our greatest sanctuaries. They were meant to be temples against ignorance, harbors of safety. It is not our preordained destiny that good Congresswomen get gunned down in parking lots. It is not our fate that innocent mothers and mothers must be massacred in malls and maimed in movie theaters.  As Dr. King once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This problem is ubiquitous. These are schools and malls in places like Connecticut, Oregon, Utah, and Minnesota.

Like Sandy Hook, the massacre of Sikhs at the temple in Oak Creek, WI, demonstrated that no community – Indian Americans, White Americans, African Americans – and no hallowed ground – schools, theaters, temples – is spared from the devastation. Perhaps there is no more fitting quote than Mahatma Gandhi’s decree; “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly”. This is such a time.

How many sons and daughters must be shot while we grieve but don’t change, mourn but don’t act, weep but don’t declare war against this violence?

How is it that we can march bravely into the most war-torn purgatories on this planet and yet we cannot summon the strength to save our own citizens in our own backyards? How is it that we cannot muster the courage to protect our own children in their own schools? How is it that we can sit idly by while our futures are violently transected before our very eyes?

We are sick of seeing the mass murders, we are sick of senseless shootings and we are sick. We are also sick of hearing about all the things that don’t kill. Guns don’t kill. People don’t kill. Lobbyists don’t kill. Fine. But something is killing us. Something has led to 7 mass shootings in the past year alone.

Some would say that arming the 5 and 6 year olds would have deterred this incident. I cannot speak for the 5 and 6 year olds but I am skeptical of this plan. Perhaps each man, woman and child can carry around an atom bomb with them as a deterrent as well. I am not sure this would help either but there is a lobbyist who will tell you this is the answer.

Even as a man of science, I do not believe in the success of doing DNA testing on every citizen to try to predict their propensity to commit such a heinous crime. But there is a lobbyist who will tell us this is the key to success. Even as an educator, I don’t know if there is some online course that will teach people values, how not to be crazy and how to respect life. But there is lobbyist who will tell you this is the cure.

I have spent my life training to preserve life not take it so I may or may not have all of the answers. But what I do know is bullets are too cheap, automatic guns are to easy to come by, AK-47s are not required to kill pheasant or deer, and deranged human beings have far too much access to these automatic weapons.

Nothing haunts a soul as much as the failure to act at time when we should have. We have a chance and an obligation to come together now. Every man, woman and child who dies innocently and senselessly from this day forward will haunt us with the specter of knowing we could have answered the cries of agony but did not. We could have risen to the challenge but looked away. Every victim now continues to add to the unimaginable debt of lost souls.

Why do we feel so shackled in the Land of the Free? Why do we cower in the Home of the Brave? We must not be paralyzed by politics. To the Congressmen and Senators, to the Mayors and Governors, and to the President of the Greatest Nation on earth: we must do something. To the Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives, Brothers and Sisters you must do something. We must come together. We must act. And we must act now.