Our country is mourning. Again.
Two years ago today, our community witnessed the horrifying murder of Mr. George Floyd as he struggled to breathe while a police officer knelt on his neck. Today, we awoke not only to the ongoing ramifications of that trauma, but a fresh wound in Texas. Two adults and 19 young children were murdered yesterday in another preventable and senseless act of violence. But we cannot simply mourn.
We all have countless aspirations for the children in our lives. We dream about what they’ll grow up to be, milestones they’ll achieve and the full lives they’ll surely live. But if the most basic need of all – safety – is not met, we’ll never see those aspirations come to life.
Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in our country. Think about that. A child or teen is killed with a gun every two hours and 36 minutes. There have been 27 school shootings this year alone. Kids routinely practice what to do if a gunman enters their classroom, as though it were a fire or tornado drill. And of course, gun violence also occurs in the streets, and even at home, as happened very recently to a 6-year-old boy found dead in the trunk of his mother’s car in our own community. Perhaps most tragically, these deaths are as likely to be suicide as homicide.
As an emergency physician, I will never forget each child I’ve seen come into my emergency departments, their small bodies shot and clinging to life. Dozens of doctors and nurses then poke and prod them, fighting for their survival. They’re put on ventilators; they’re rushed into operating rooms. When a child is killed, families are shattered, and communities are forever traumatized. We do everything in our power to save every child’s life, while with the flick of a finger, a shooter can take it all away.
As doctors, we spend our lives focused on the wellness of our patients. We spend our energy in search of treatments, cures, and most of all prevention for things that threaten the health of children. And just like with other diseases and health crises, there are preventive measures for the health threat posed by guns. It is long past time to do more than stand idly by and watch the same tragedy replay day after day, month after month, year after year. Taking action in response to this tragedy should be simple. Pediatricians across the country have been advocating for solutions for decades: Enacting common-sense firearm legislation, including strengthening background checks, supporting effective extreme risk protection orders, encouraging safe firearm storage, banning assault weapons and addressing firearm trafficking.
We at Children’s Minnesota are devoted to making childhood healthy and happy. We must protect kids from the trauma of guns. As The Kid Experts, we know what must be done.