Written by Ramon S. Cancino, MD, MSc
The community health center where I work is committed to improving the health of the population of patients we serve. The health center has continually assessed the community to find gaps in what we as physicians, nurse practitioners, and behavioral health staff can provide. When we find gaps, we search for and apply to grants from federal, state, local, and private agencies for aid in order to try to meet the needs of our community.
Recently, our health center was reminded that there are gaps in community safety that our health center can never fully address alone. Gun violence and the availability of weapons continue to permeate the surrounding neighborhoods. In a community where homicides have increased while other crime has decreased, the availability of guns continues to threaten the progress made by health centers, community outreach workers, community-based partners, and faith-based organizations – all striving to to make gains in health, wellness and social reform.
Gun violence is a public health issue that affects both children and adults. Research shows that 48 children are wounded or are killed by gunfire on a daily basis. Our health center is cognizant of this fact and we rely on our multiple partners to help us educate our community on the futility of violent actions. We lean heavily on our behavioral health division to assess for and treat underlying behavioral health illnesses. All this takes place in a community that resides in a state ranked an ‘A-‘ by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Our state currently does not limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time, impose a waiting period on firearm purchases, or require unlicensed firearm sellers to conduct a background check on gun purchasers.
Many times, as a community health center, we must rely on all of our partners, including our policymakers, to draft and support those initiatives which serve to enhance the safety and well-being of our communities. Legislating enhanced gun safety may not be able to heal the ills of an entire population, but doing so may set a community on the path towards a safer future – for children and adults.
To find gun violence prevention information, helpful resources, and action opportunities, please visit http://npalliance.org/gun-violence-prevention.