West End Healthline
Gun Violence Prevention: What We Can Do
By Emily Benzie, MD
The West End neighborhood is still recovering from the mass shooting at the Seventh Street Truck Park on the morning of Oct.10. As a community, we mourn the loss of Marquisha Wiley, who was senselessly killed, and we recognize the pain of the 15 others who were wounded by gunfire. Marquisha is one of more than 440 people on average who die by guns in Minnesota every year, in addition to many others who are wounded and traumatized.
We as family physicians are committed to work for the health and safety of our patients and communities. We see the huge impact gun violence has on the mental and physical health of our patients. This is why we are so concerned about the recent rise in gun violence across our country, including communities in our own state.
While mass shootings such as the event at the Seventh Street Truck Park are scary to think about, what we hear about gun violence on the news is just the tip of the iceberg. Every time someone pulls a trigger to settle a dispute, end their own life or take the life of a current or former domestic partner, the effect reaches far beyond those directly involved. The health and wellbeing of their families, friends, co-workers, classmates, witnesses to the event and first responders are often affected too. Additionally, so are neighbors, business owners and even those who just read or hear about the event without experiencing it directly.
In our clinics, we unfortunately see the effect of gun violence on a regular basis. It shows up not only as physical wounds and sometimes life-long pain in the victims themselves, but also in the countless patients that we see with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It shows up as uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension when our patients don’t feel safe enough to exercise outdoors in their neighborhoods. It shows up as decreased quality of life and loss of work productivity. The consequences of gun violence ripple throughout our entire community, affecting all of us.
The problem of gun violence is so complex and multifactorial that it can seem insurmountable and therefore inevitable. However, we all deserve to feel safe in our communities and therefore we absolutely cannot accept this as “normal.” There are things that each of us can—and I daresay, must—do to work toward decreasing gun violence. Here are just a few:
-We can talk with young people in our lives about the importance of settling conflicts without violence. We can role model this for them in our own lives as well.
-We can practice and promote secure firearm storage. Storing firearms locked and unloaded in homes and vehicles decreases the chance that guns will fall into the wrong hands, such as children, suicidal loved ones or criminals. A helpful resource is www.besmartforkids.org.
-We can support and volunteer with organizations that are working every day to decrease gun violence in our community, such as Moms Demand Action, Protect Minnesota and Mothers Against Community Gun Violence.
-We can contact our elected officials at all levels, from city council and mayor to our state and federal legislators, to tell them again and again how important the issue of gun violence prevention is to us. We can tell them we need common sense laws like criminal background checks on all gun sales, including internet and private sales. We can also ask them to support and fund evidence-based gun violence prevention strategies like violence intervention programs.
– Find contact information for and upcoming events with Ward 2 Councilmember Rebecca Noecker at www.stpaul.gov/department/city-council/ward-2-councilmember-rebecca-noecker.
– Find contact information for your state and federal lawmakers here: https://www.gis.lcc.mn.gov/iMaps/districts.
Please raise your voice with us. Our communities’ health and safety depend on it.
Dr. Benzie is a lifelong St. Paul resident and practices family medicine at a community health clinic in Northeast Minneapolis. She leads the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group with the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians and is a volunteer with the Saint Paul group of Moms Demand Action.