Dr. Jeff Duchin on gun violence: “We need to do more.”

By Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer

Early on Sunday, June 12th, a lone gunman with a semiautomatic rifle carried out the largest mass shooting in United States history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing dozens of men and women. Our thoughts, prayers and tears go out to the families and friends of the victims, along with our hope for the quick physical recovery for the many injured, though we know the psychological toll will be long-lasting.

So far in 2016, there have been 136 mass shootings (including those with four victims or more) in the US with over 200 deaths.  Last year, there were over 13,000 deaths from gun violence in the US. King County is not immune from this epidemic of firearm suicides, homicides and unintentional shootings.  Gun violence kills more people each year in King County than car crashes.

This past November, after the Paris terrorist attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, I wrote of the need to recognize gun violence as a public health problem and start to address it accordingly.

I hope we won’t let this latest attack fade away without seeing any change in our approach to gun violence. Washington state’s universal gun purchase background check law is a step in the right direction that should be emulated nationally. But we need to do more.

  • We need for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to collect data on and study causes of gun violence – which has been effectively banned by Congress since 1996.
  • We need resources to strengthen and enact effective strategies that support gun violence prevention, like King County’s LOK-IT-UP! program for safe firearm storage.
  • We need to continue to strengthen implementation of existing laws, such as Washington’s new law that allows firearms to be removed in domestic violence situations in certain circumstances.
  • We need to better educate ourselves and our families about the role that firearms play in suicide — over half of our King County firearms deaths in adults are suicides — and take concrete steps to remove access to firearms when a person who we know is at risk.
  • Where guns are an automatic go-to to solve disputes, or react to slights, we need to find strategies to help our youth see a different way forward.
  • We also need to advocate for safer firearms (for example, that only the authorized user can fire).

The recent attack in Orlando, like those that came before, should strengthen our commitment to treating gun violence as a disease and help us start reversing the epidemic of preventable gun-related deaths.

(image via Bustle.com)

3 thoughts on “Dr. Jeff Duchin on gun violence: “We need to do more.”

  1. I would have to respectfully disagree with the conclusion of this article. Gun violence is not a disease. It is often the result of someone suffering from a disease such as antisocial personality disorder manifesting as psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies. Violence is a behavior and a gun is a tool. Any of the individuals associated with mass shootings are by definition mass murderers. Again, an action. More credence needs to be given to address the mental disorder that predicates the murderous act and enforcing the current gun legislation that, if enforced, would keep the weapons out of the hands of these mentally disturbed individuals. Placing more onerous restrictions on those whom will abide by the letter of the law will not affect those willing to circumvent it. Unfortunately we are seeing the results of a video game and time out culture, where a generation of children were nurtured by a television screen and not learning that there are consequences for negative behavior. It is time to address the mental health elephant in the room. It is the obligation of those around an unstable individual to report, even if confidentially. See something, say something. I pray that those associated with the cowardly Orlando shooter are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, without any leniency, as accessories to 100+ counts of murder or attempted murder. This message needs to be sent throughout the nation that inaction equals accessory to the crime. There needs to be a change in behavior to correct the action.

  2. @ Tony Romero

    Gun Violence is not a disease, but it is an issue of public health, just as mosquito eradication is, along treatment of the mosquito borne diseases. And “more onerous restrictions on those whom will abide by the letter of the law ” is the worst way to approach solutions. Only 47% of parental shootings are by their mentally ill child. In the M.H. community we are not supposed to say things like that because some take offense. “Right wing gun nuts” are not the only ones who bristle about their rights and privleges, and who dislike inconvenient statistical truth.

    My son, BTW, was the Cafe Racer Shooter mentioned in the Dr’s Op Sea Times Ed today, June 28

    I have thought long and hard. I have been engaged with the ?Extreme Risk Protection Order , Initiative 1491. I believe in its scope and its balance of rights. While gathering signatures at folklife, a certain profile immediately stood out. Our young troops in uniform are pretty easy to spot in civies. One was easygoing so I ask his issue. ” I have too many friends they are trying to call crazy.” he said . I replied “got it, thanks.” because I do get it. I know some things about how the V.A. operates and how these current vets, like my late son, have certain ways of judging themselves. Personally I think its wrong. Considering the real consequences for them, I can not argue with their reluctances.

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