Written by Steve Woods, RN, BSN, MBA, manager of trauma services at St. Louis Children’s Hospital
The #enough message shared by the Brady Campaign sums up the way many people are feeling in St. Louis about the increase in crime, and, more importantly, the increase in gun violence that has erupted within our beloved community. Each day there is another report of someone that has been injured or killed as a result of gun violence in St. Louis. There are precious lives, families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, and cities that are being destroyed as a result of the violence and it must STOP! When is enough enough?
Gun violence has risen to a new level—a public health crisis level—and inaction is no longer a choice for our community. It is time to stop passing blame, turning a blind eye, and assuming that it is the concern of others, but not ourselves. St. Louis is better than the useless violence that is claiming innocent lives in our community, and it is time we take action and get involved in this monumental public health crisis. By “we,” I mean the residents that live, work, and play in our community, formal and informal leaders, community and government leaders, elected officials, police and public safety officers, health care providers and partners, our schools—primary, secondary, and higher education centers—and the various social and civic organizations within our community to have a meaningful impact on helping to reduce gun violence.
Recently I was privileged to attend the Brady Campaign and American Public Health Association (APHA) National Summit in Washington, D.C., which focused on gun violence. The theme for the national summit this year was focused on a public health approach to reducing gun deaths and injuries in America. The summit quickly sold out of tickets, and had a substantial waiting list for potential attendees from across the country, further supporting the need for gun violence reform and community action. The recent increase in violent crime and meaningless gun violence is not unique to St. Louis. It is an increasing concern for a lot of communities across America.
The summit organizers did a great job of bringing together elected officials, medical experts, social and civic organizations, and various disciplines to brainstorm and strategize how we can collectively have an impact on the current public health crisis known as “Gun Violence in America.” At the summit, the attendees got to hear first-hand from people that have been exposed, impacted, or victims of community violence, and gained useful insight to their individual, personal stories and testimonies about their experience and the aftermath of gun violence. Violence in America is not a new public health issue, but is a growing concern that is headed to what most consider epidemic proportions. We are losing innocent lives to gun violence, and we have to take action to prevent more injuries and deaths as a result of the rapidly growing gun violence.
At the summit, the attendees had the opportunity to network, collaborate, and brainstorm about historic and future strategies, implemented and proposed programs and initiatives, and discuss the successes and failures of techniques to help reduce gun violence. Gun violence is a very complex, multi-faceted issue that has an extensive reach and impact on communities struggling to reduce gun violence. In order for there to be marked reduction in the number of crimes involving gun violence, it will take all members within the community to have a strategic and coordinated approach that addresses the core issues associated with gun violence within the community.
For me, personally, there are some key take-aways from the national summit that I’d like to share. Below are some high level strategies and next steps to aid in the efforts to reduce the number of gun related crimes in America.
Gun policy and law reform
We have to make sure that we have stricter and more supportive policies and laws that are enforceable and related to crimes involving guns and access to guns; we must reduce black market gun operations, implement controlled interstate trafficking of guns, require safe storage of guns, require registration for all gun owners, keep guns out of the hands of innocent children, and demand more robust background checks and protection from felons with guns, criminal gun dealers, while holding gun industry leaders accountable for their role in the issue.
Fiscal and social support at state and federal levels
We need to ensure that our elected officials are partnering with subject matter experts and trusted public health officials to ensure we have adequate fiscal appropriations that support social programs that provide the fundamental framework to reduce gun violence and prevent threats to the well-being of people that reside and visit our community.
As community leaders, it is our job to make our elected officials and community partners aware of the current public health crisis related to gun violence in our community. We need to unite, encourage, and embrace a zero-tolerance approach related to gun violence in our community. We have to start the dialogue among our neighbors, peers, and community leaders about the issues involving gun violence, and start working together to take back our community and return St. Louis to a safe place to visit, make community investments, and to live and raise your family.
Community-based, grass-root initiatives and national campaigns
Tell your story and the story of your neighborhood, and how gun violence has impacted you, your family and friends. This is an opportunity to team up with elected officials, social and civic organizations, and key stakeholders to embark on a life-changing, community-saving endeavor that will have a lasting impact on your community. We have a unique opportunity to engage and participate in local, regional, state, and national programs and campaigns that are focused on reducing meaningless crime and reducing the number of a people injured and killed as a result of gun violence in America. Several campaigns are actively enlisting new participants: Million Moms March, ASK, ENOUGH, etc. … The key message is to get involved!
As community members and concerned citizens, we need to be aware of the current landscape and prevalence of gun violence in our own community. Education and knowledge is the fuel we need to embark and power through the much-needed change in our community. We can utilize this knowledge to inspire change and engage in meaningful discussions related to reducing gun violence and the subsequent aftermath of violent crimes.
Quick facts to consider
- 1 in 3 homes with children in America has guns, many unlocked or loaded.
- 3 in 4 Children ages 5-14 years, know where firearms are kept in the home.
- 42 percent of parents in the Brady Campaign survey reported having at least one unlocked gun in the home.
- 25 percent of those surveyed reported at least one gun that is loaded in the home.
- Approximately 9 children and teens are shot every day in gun accidents.
- Approximately 18,000 youth are injured or killed each year due to gun violence.
- Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens.
- (Reference: bradycampaign.org)
As reported by the Center for Disease Control: National Injury Prevention and Control Center, unintentional, accidental injury is the leading cause of injury and death among youth, 1-24 years of age. Therefore, we have an opportunity to have a substantial impact on preventing unnecessary, meaningless injury and/or death among American youth.
I want to leave you with this thought, #enough. Enough with the gun violence and meaningless crimes that have become all too common in our community. I challenge each of you to consider the current environment and ask yourself, “What role can I play in reducing gun violence in my community?” The goal of the national summit, co-hosted by the Brady Campaign and APHA, was to create a safer America and reduce gun violence and the associated injuries and potential risk of life associated with violent crimes. We cannot allow another life to be lost in our community as a result of gun violence.