Gun regulations, behavioral health services needed to stem public health crisis.
A mass shooting that left 10 people dead in Buffalo, New York, shows failings of current gun laws, and the prevalence of hate crimes and racism, said the leader of the American College of Physicians (ACP).
The doctors’ group members were “deeply disturbed” to hear about the May 14 event, ACP President Ryan D. Mire, MD, FACP, said in a published statement.
“Physicians all too regularly come face-to-face with the tragedy that gun violence brings,” Mire said in the published statement. “The rate of injuries and deaths related to firearms and the growing incidence of mass shootings brings to light, once again, the glaring lack of firearm policy in the U.S. and the lack of access to mental health care in our country.
“For more than two decades we have sounded the alarm about the public health crisis caused by gun violence and called for policies that would reduce injuries and deaths stemming from firearms and improve access to behavioral health services,” Mire said.
Three others were hurt in the shooting that reportedly targeted Black shoppers at a Tops grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. Suspect Payton Gendron, who is White, was taken into custody and has pleaded innocent to murder, according to the Associated Press.
The following day, another shooting in Laguna Woods, California, seemed to be directed at the Taiwanese community there, killing Dr. John Cheng, a physician, Mire said. Alleged gunman David Chou apparently was motivated by political hatred of Taiwan. Cheng tackled Chou, allowing other churchgoers to detain him, and five people were hurt, according to the Associated Press.
ACP strongly supports policies that strengthen background checks for people seeking to purchase firearms, along with prohibiting the sale of semiautomatic firearms that are designed to increase rapid killing capacity, often called “assault weapons.” It appeared the alleged shooter in Buffalo used that type of rifle in the incident.
“Improvements to the background check system might have prevented this individual from legally purchasing a firearm, given previous threats,” Mire said.
ACP has identified hate crimes as a public health issue and has called attention to the “tremendous negative impact” that racism, discrimination and prejudice have on individual and public health, Mire said.
The weekend incidents follow other shootings in recent years that targeted women, persons of Mexican origin and descent, Jewish, Sikh, and gay persons, among others, because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.
“We also see the daily toll of gun violence, including mass shootings occurring nearly every day, in our communities, workplaces, stores, places of worship, and homes,” Mire said. “We cannot continue to live in a country where people have to give special consideration to whether or not it’s safe to go about their everyday lives.
“It is time for all who share our commitment to preventing avoidable deaths and injuries from firearms, and all who share our commitment to combatting racism and hate crimes, to come together to take action to help prevent future tragedies.”