Data collected on the number and severity of car crashes along I-81 in Virginia indicates that stretches of the road pose a significant safety risk. Funds are appropriated and improvements are made.
An E. coli outbreak threatens the safety of those eating Romaine lettuce, and public health officials, food distributors and grocery store chains work, in tandem, to remove any potential health risk to consumers.
Both are examples of how a scientific, evidence-based approach is implemented to reduce death and injury. When faced with a public safety issue, stakeholders must understand the scope of the problem, identify its underlying causes, and intervene, based on empirical data.
The proliferation of guns and gun violence poses a significant threat to our public health and safety and must be addressed as such.
Each year, in Virginia, more people die from gun violence than automobile accidents. Of those deaths, roughly two-thirds are suicides. Death by firearm is the second leading cause of death in children, ages 0-17, with children of color affected at a disproportionately higher rate than others.
Household guns, often too easily accessible, are a major source of weapons used in school shootings, youth suicides and unintentional shooting deaths among children. Gun violence is insidious. It takes on many facets and leaves whole communities to suffer in its aftermath.
For decades, healthcare providers have called upon lawmakers to confront gun violence, in all its forms. Common sense gun safety laws that focus on prevention by keeping guns out of the hands of those with a proclivity to violence, enhance child access prevention laws, and thwart the flow of illegal guns, have been proven to reduce the incidence of gun violence in other states.
Yet year after year, the Republican majority in Virginia’s General Assembly votes against the public safety of the constituency. Their moral indifference to the crisis that tears at the fabric of Virginia’s communities is stunning.
In the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31, Gov. Northam has called lawmakers back to Richmond on July 9 to convene a special Gun Violence Prevention session.
While leaders in the House and Senate claim that it is too soon to discuss gun safety, it is indeed, too late for the thousands of victims in the Commonwealth who are killed or injured each year. Gun safety advocates and their allies in the Legislature will focus on prevention as new bills are introduced during the upcoming session.
Constituents must demand that their representatives, regardless of party, support these bills to report out of their respective committees and receive a full floor vote in both chambers. Recent polls indicate that even in more conservative districts, the majority of voters support such gun safety laws.
No single piece of legislation will put an end to this crisis. However, it is incumbent upon legislators to take an evidence-based approach to enact a comprehensive set of laws to effect change.
Addressing gun violence in our communities is not political. It is a matter of public health and safety. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. It is time for votes and laws.
Christine Payne, R.N.