I had a brief stint as an editorial columnist but since I am a grad student who is not allowed to have outside projects that require time and effort /joke I did the right thing for me, and the better thing for my editor and bowed out. But here is the column I would’ve had published next in my school’s student newspaper-
tw: college shooting, gun violence
It’s very easy when you’re in school to feel protected from the outside world, to engage only in problems on an academic level and feel that the real world and its problems are very far away. While there are many things that happen out in the real world that do not happen on college campuses, gun violence is not one of them. Yesterday another campus shooting popped up on my facebook newsfeed- Tennessee State University, with one death and three injuries. Before that it was Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University, and then the murder of 9 people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. I am distressed by the idea that these shootings are so normalized and pushed aside, with no legislation or policies introduced, with no real progress made- just like the shooting in South Carolina, and the murder of children at Newtown, and all of the countless shootings before them. Schools and universities bring us all together in a safe space to learn new things, exchange ideas and to work together peacefully as a community- gun violence does not have a place in here. If we continue to play to these strengths- searching for the truth and better solutions through hard work and problem solving- we can continue to keep ourselves safe from the tragedies that have befallen other Universities, and continue to serve as a role model for them.
As of now, the University does not allow conceal and carry guns on campus. But if the man who is suing the University to change the rule because it restricts his freedoms, we may have to deal with a new level of risk every time we step on to campus. (Source) As a public health professional and a person, this concerns me, because states (and by extension our University) with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. (Source) But even if the gun control laws are stricter, as was astutely pointed out by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, ladders in the United States are more regulated than guns. (Source) 33,000 people die every year because of guns while 300 people died annually from ladders before the regulation.
The lack of regulation is not because Public Health professionals do not have the ability to regulate but because of systematic lobbying and blocking by the National Rifle Association (NRA). When given the opportunity and funding, Public Health professionals have made big changes against even bigger industries- successfully passing regulations to limit tobacco sale to minors and put seatbelts in cars. (source) Unfortunately, not long after the murder of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the House of Representative Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to allow the CDC to study underlying causes of gun violence. (Source) If the CDC were able to find the most common cause of gun violence, it would put us that much closer to effective gun laws and regulations- whether that be psychological tests or gun registration or all of the above. There are many things we can do to support the University, the CDC and Public Health researchers who are investigating gun violence.We should let the University know that the current gun policy keeps us safe and that they should also help to promote similar policies for other college campuses.
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee should be held accountable for blocking important source of information, and that there is push back against intimidation by the NRA. We also should demand transparency from the NRA about gun sales and background checks. (Source) For the full list of House Appropriations Committee Members click here. Anti-gun organizations- Brady campaign, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and everytown for gun safety