Written by Edward Z. Walworth, MD
On the evening of February 20 in Portland, Maine, our senior Senator, Susan Collins, received the Buzz Fitzgerald Award at the annual Fitzgerald Dinner held by Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence. The award and event are named for the late CEO of Bath Iron Works, where Navy destroyers are constructed along the Kennebec River. Senator Collins was one of only four Republican senators to vote in favor of the Toomey-Manchin (background check) bill that failed to pass the Senate in 2013. It should be noted that not all of the Democratic senators supported the bill.
Senator Collins grew up in Aroostook County (just called “the County” in Maine), where trees and potatoes and moose outnumber people and where hunting is a bedrock tradition. Whereas the Representatives from Congressional District #2 in Maine, which includes Aroostook, have usually shied away from any bill remotely associated with “gun control”, Senator Collins had no qualms supporting what she felt was reasonable legislation. The fourth-term Senator was pleased to be recognized by MCAHV and looks forward to supporting any other such bills that might come before the Senate.
The population of Maine is about 1.3 million and over time I have come to realize that one can be on a first name basis with all four of our Congressional delegates. They have always been quite responsive to phone calls, emails, and personal letters.
It is critical that physicians keep the pressure on our representatives at all levels. I am sure that they hear a lot about reimbursement issues from medical constituents, so when a doctor communicates instead about a public health issue such as firearm trauma, it makes an impression.
As I write this, the Maine legislature is considering a law that would roll back restrictions on concealed carry, overriding local ordinances. At the same time, U.S. Senator John Cornyn from Texas has introduced federal legislation that would override state laws for concealed carry—state laws whose high standards regarding who can carry concealed, loaded guns in public would be undercut.
So while the NPA is concerned with national issues, remember that all politics is local. It starts at City Hall, continues to the State House, and ends up on Capitol Hill. We need to make noise at all levels. May the National Physicians Alliance stir the pot and turn all generations of doctors into activists on this and other issues.
To find gun violence prevention information, helpful resources, and action opportunities, please visit http://npalliance.org/gun-violence-prevention.