Gun Violence as a Human Rights Issue
We, the student branch of Physicians for Human rights, urge healthcare professionals to view gun violence not ONLY as a public health matter but ALSO as a human rights issue.
"In 2014 alone, there were 81,034 injuries and 33,599 deaths due to gun violence in the United States,which equate to 222 Americans injured, and 92 killed, by firearms every day."
Meghal Shah is currently on PHR's Student Advisory Board Advocacy Committee. In her article, published in "In Training", she highlights how gun violence "intersects with other public health concerns such as mental health, women’s health, child and adolescent health and race." As healthcare providers it is our responsibility to keep our patients and community safe.
So why is the distinction between public health and human rights issue important?
Meghal explains that "as a public health issue, physicians and researchers are made responsible for conducting the research that will help save lives. By acknowledging gun violence as a human rights issue, we make the government responsible for facilitating and supporting that research."
How has the government addressed the issue?
Well... they actually passed a law to prevent funding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study gun violence. In 1996, the Dickey Amendment states that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control”.
In 2015, a large budget was allotted to the CDC "of which $11 million was assigned to collect surveillance data through the National Violent Death Reporting System." This might sound like improvement but...none of the funding was assigned to scientific research into risk factors, prevention or firearm safety where data could actually make a difference.
How have medical groups responded?
Meghal explains that "in April 2016, Doctors for America sent a letter to four senior members of Congress, urging them to end the ban on firearms research funding enacted by the Dickey Amendment and to reinstate federal funding for the cause. The message in the letter, later echoed by the American Medical Association and the original author of the controversial bill, Rep. Jay Dickey, emphasizes the importance of research as a means to ensure safety. Just as research into motor vehicle accidents has lead to safer vehicles, research can identify which interventions are effective at improving firearm safety for Americans, whether it is safe storage or changes to the background check protocol, and by extension, reducing violence related to guns."
So are we trying to take away everyone's guns?
Not at all! "The letter put forth by Doctors for America, the statement published by the AMA and this organization’s intentions are not to advocate for or against the second amendment; rather, we believe that robust public health and scientific research into this issue is crucial to identifying ways to keep Americans safe in the context of guns." explains Meghal.
How do YOU get involved?
"Read and share the letter written and signed by Doctors for America
Add your name to the many petitions circulating regarding guns, including this one
Bring awareness on this topic at your school by sharing this article or by organizing a talk. (If you need help with this last, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
For more information read Meghal's Article: click here!
For questions, email email@example.com
Meghal Shah is a third year at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown in Providence, RI. She is joined the PHR SAB as an advocacy committee chair after co-leading the PHR chapter at Brown. During her time as the chapter co-leader, she helped facilitate the Asylum Clinic, brought speakers to campus to talk about human rights issues both as physicians and from other perspectives, and organized journal clubs. Aside from PHR, she also engaged in advocacy work surrounding the homeless population in Providence, has been conducting basic science and clinical research in surgery and helped lead the school book club.