The Tyee has published my article Let's Call Gun Violence What It Is: A Public Health Disaster. Click or tap through for the full article with many links. Excerpt:
Public-health experts have added up the "butcher's bill" of gun violence, but the message has not yet sunk in. If anything, the Americans seem increasingly deaf to it.
Ebola took almost two years to kill as many West Africans as gunshots have killed Americans so far this year. Since 2012, when it was first identified, MERS has killed just 568 people. Gunshots kill that many Americans every 19 days.
Admittedly, we have bigger public health problems than American gunshot deaths. According to Worldometers, by early October about 750,000 people worldwide had died of malaria this year, 1.2 million of HIV/AIDS, and 3.8 million from smoking.
Firearms? Don't even ask
Still, the Americans like to think they have one of the world's best healthcare systems, and they're the go-to people when new diseases break out. You would think that American doctors and nurses, at least, would blow the whistle on something that was killing so many of their patients.
Incredibly, such healthcare workers often can't even talk about the problem. A Florida law forbids doctors from even asking patients if they own or possess firearms. A National Medical Council on Gun Violence was created only in 2013, and seems not to have accomplished much so far.
I confess I'm as stumped as Obama about how to deal with this. In the late 1940s, little boys like me enlivened our days by playing guns with cap pistols. Now a child may be suspended from school by pointing an index finger at a classmate and saying "You're dead!" Yet my generation couldn't always pull the trigger even in combat, and some of today's properly reared young men choose schools as their preferred free-fire zones.
The rest of the world, including Canada, is in the position of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, a Hungarian doctor in Vienna in the 19th century. He realized that his colleagues were killing their patients, especially mothers giving birth, by wearing filthy, blood-crusted aprons and not even washing their hands. The aprons were a mark of status, and Viennese doctors laughed at Semmelweiss despite his evidence.
Semmelweiss broke down, was committed to an asylum, and within two weeks was dead after being beaten by his guards. A similar fate awaits any American politician who even whispers about gun control, and woe betide any foreign country that criticizes American access to firearms.
So for the foreseeable future, the advanced industrial nations must put up with a senior colleague enjoying decisive influence over the planet but zero influence over a few dozen disturbed young men within its borders.
Those young men, supported by American gun fetishists -- not the president or senators or members of Congress -- will determine American public health policy for the rest of our lives.