Orlando: Another Reminder of Public Health Measures Not Taken

Mary_Magdalene_Crying_StatueOnce again, we’re reading about a mass shooting—this one the deadliest so far, with 50 dead in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We’ve learned that the alleged shooter, born in the United States to immigrant parents, appears to have been volatile and prone to angry outbursts.

He’d made threats about killings months earlier, according to news reports of interviews with coworkers and family members. Reports also indicate that he professed a hatred of gays and, during the attack, pledged allegiance to the radical Islamic terrorist group ISIS. He had been investigated by the FBI at earlier dates in conjunction with suspected terrorist activities.

And also once again, we learn that the guns, including an assault-style semiautomatic rifle*, were purchased legally. Assault rifles like the one used in Orlando are often used by mass shooters. Assault weapons had once been banned—but when the ban expired in 2004, it was not renewed by Congress, nor does it seem likely to be.

AJN, along with countless other health journals and organizations, has lent its voice to the call to address gun violence as a public health issue and institute reasonable gun control laws that deny access to guns to those on terrorist watch lists and others who may pose a significant threat.

What if we actually repeated the results seen in Australia after new restrictions were put in place limiting access to such gun types as assault rifles and pump action shot guns? There were 13 mass shootings in the 18 years preceding passage of Australia’s 1996 gun law. It was followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings.

Here’s an issue all nurses should get behind.

(Correction: News stories initially reported that the shooter had used a rifle known as the AR-15. In fact, he used a Sig Sauer MCX; the legal version fires on semiautomatic and it has a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. It was reportedly designed at the request of the U.S. Special Forces for use in military missions, and fits the definition found in Merriam-Webster dictionary of an assault rifle: “any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines designed for military use.”)

Editor-in-chief, AJN

3 Comments

  1. B.Marville RN June 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Islamic terrorism is not the only reason for many of the recent mass shootings in the US. The Founding Fathers of the Constitution never envisioned a weapon that could kill so many so quickly. The Second Amendment guarantees “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The Second Amendment was meant for farmers and townspeople who were armed with single shot muskets, that if you were well trained, you could get off 3, maybe 4 shots per minute. It was supported highly by slave owners, of which many of the Founding Fathers were, in order to control their African-American slaves who outnumbered them and could mount a revolt if not for their owners being armed.

    The amendment can still be argued to mean that gun ownership is only for the need to form a militia. We have the National Guard to fulfill that need.
    Could Jefferson have perceived the NRA?

    There is no need for any of us to have these guns. The danger to the public is too high, although the NRA has successfully lobbied the Congress to block the CDC from studying gun violence as a public health threat. The AMA just called for the repeal of that ban. What if Big Tobacco was able to block cancer research? Should Dunkin’ Donuts be able to block diabetes research, McDonald’s obesity?

    This is how unbalanced the gun lobby has influenced law.
    Enough death and blame! Follow Australia’s example and regulate the ability to buy a gun whose only purpose is to kill mass quantities of people in a short amount of time, no matter what the reason or ideology. Yes people kill people, but people have a harder time killing others when they don’t have access to a technology designed to enable them to kill many people quickly.

    We are not permitted to own personal atomic weapons. There’s a really good reason for that. Ban the guns and stop the killing.

  2. April L. Folgert, PhD, RN June 14, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Excellent commentary! I agree that higher screening levels need to take place when semi-automatics are purchased. We should also be cognizant that if someone wants to get their hands on a gun, they will do so; legally or illegally. Guns, pipe bombs, box cutters, and the like are the means. It’s the person on the other end who does the killing.

    Alternatively, we need to focus more on addressing mental health issues. As indicated, the shooter had a history of volatile and angry outbursts. Did he receive care for this? What resources were available and were there barriers to access? I agree that violence is most certainly a public health issue. Access to mental health care throughout the life span is also an issue all nurses could support.

  3. Peter M Abraham June 14, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    1. The terrorist did not use an assault rifle.
    2. As a legal citizen of the United States of America, I stand behind the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
    3. We should be really asking ourselves why the department of homeland security vetted the Muslim terrorist, and why the FBI didn’t take action prior to the event.
    4. We should really be asking ourselves in gun free zones like the zone the Orlando night club was in is a good idea; terrorists and criminals will not respect gun free zones.
    5. We should realize this issue was due to an Islamic terrorist and rather than restrict the rights of law abiding citizens, focus on curbing terrorism.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.