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I know guns are a public health crisis. But this law is blocking important research | Opinion

Idaho Statesman - 3/21/2024

I peered down to see my phone light up.

“Have you heard from (him) today? (He)’s missing.”

My heart sank. Dread completely consumed me as a dozen phone calls went unanswered. Early the next morning, I received the call I thought would happen only in my worst nightmare. My friend had taken his own life.

Over the course of our lifetime, more than three in five of us will be or will know someone who’s been affected by gun violence, whether through assault, suicide (completed or attempted) or unintentionally. My name is Amelia, and gun violence is deeply personal to me. I am a third-year medical student at Georgetown University with a Master’s of Public Health and a graduate of Eagle High School.

Since graduating from EHS in 2015, firearm-related injury and death has become a recurring theme in my life. In addition to tragically losing my friend to suicide, another narrowly escaped the Highland Park parade shooting in 2022. I’ve also seen countless patients in the emergency department following gun-related injuries and followed the stories of the hundreds of doctors lost to suicide each year, including an ophthalmology resident from Utah earlier this month.

Firearm-related injuries harm our communities. In 2021, 48,830 Americans and 309 Idahoans died from firearm-related injuries. We could fill the Ford Idaho Center for the Snake River Stampede nearly 14 times with those directly affected by firearm-related incidents each year. And we can’t even begin to count the family and friends, like me, who are indirectly affected by the grief, trauma, depression and anxiety brought on by gun-related tragedies.

Gun violence is expensive too. Gun-related injuries and deaths cost taxpayers $560 billion each year, which includes costs for short- and long-term medical care for survivors, prosecution and incarceration, and lost earnings due to disability or death.

Despite these alarming facts, I’m not here to promote a partisan agenda. What I am here to do is identify and define the need for more evidence if we want to ensure gun policies that promote life.

First, we need to invest in research. As a medical student I’ve seen how rigorous research allows us to more completely identify a problem, evaluate potential solutions and implement evidence-based solutions. Why do we wear seat belts? Why do we tax tobacco products? It’s because research showed us that doing so saves lives.

Despite our continuing failures, federal gun violence research funding has been limited since the 1996 Dickey Amendment. And funding remains low even with the 2019 appropriation from Congress for $25 million per year for gun violence research. How low? Well, despite car crashes killing about the same number of Americans annually, research funding to study motor vehicle accidents is between 3-4x more. This discrepancy could widen as Congress looks to cut funding.

Research funds could help answer so many questions we still have. How do we predict who might be a victim of gun violence? How do we prevent those at risk from becoming victims? What effects do mental health resources, extreme risk protection orders, conceal carry permits, enhanced security at schools and safer firearm storage have on gun-related injuries and death? To what extent?

With research, our policymakers could pass evidence-based solutions that most importantly will save lives but will also reduce spending on policies that are doomed from the beginning.

What can you do to help? Call your elected officials to let them know you support increased research funding for gun-related injuries and death. Share this with your friends and family and show your support on social media.

We are standing at a crossroads: one path destroyed by partisan passions and division, and the other leading us toward convincing evidence and tangible solutions. Gun violence is an issue that affects every single one of us. So let’s forge the path forward, choosing evidence over ideology, unity over discord and action over indolence.

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