Words do not exist to demonstrate the horror felt following Tuesday’s massacre in Uvalde, Texas. We woke up today with sorrow for the families of the nineteen children and two adults who were killed by a gunman, making it the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history (CNN). We stand ashamed and confused. How can we feel honor living in a country that simultaneously considers undoing decades of policy enacted to protect the bodies of women, while authorizing policy that sanctions the mass killing of innocent people and children? We stand against the overturn of Roe Vs. Wade, and we stand against inadequate gun laws that put public safety at risk.
As an organization promoting health and wellbeing for our communities, we feel it imperative to recognize the public health crisis that has led, in part, to this great tragedy. Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in our country, killing more than 45,000 each year (NY Times). In fact, more Americans die each year from guns than either automobile accidents or illicit drug use (PRB); this has only increased during the pandemic (NY Times). While stricter regulation surrounding gun ownership and use would not eliminate tragedy entirely, it would go a long way in preventing it. Public health is prevention as evidenced by campaigns to promote seat belt and bike helmet usage, as well as regulations on alcohol and tobacco. This work has saved thousands of lives. When our very innocent children are at risk, why is this public health crisis not taking priority?
We urge our public officials at the state and federal levels to both stop wasting political energy on a women’s right to choose what happens within her body and refocus on the real emergency we face: continued innocent and promising lives lost because of deregulated gun control and a too-powerful gun lobby. We are tired of moments of silence, of the proclamation that “today is a dark day.” We are scared for our families and children. This isn’t what society means nor what the public’s health should look like…schools, grocery stores, and movie theaters should not require lockdown drills and metal detectors. Our children should not suffer this burden. We will continue to fight with our public health partners for policy change, and mourn the loss felt by our neighbors in Texas and beyond. Our hearts go out to the families and community reeling in pain.