The “good news” regarding gun violence in the U.S. is that the majority of the American public is both aware of the enormity of the problem and increasingly demanding that our legislators and President do what is necessary to curtail this incredible epidemic. Recent polls indicate that about 90% of Americans support universal background checks so individuals restricted from owning guns are unable to purchase guns. A recent NPR/Marist survey found strong support also for red-flag laws (72%) and a ban on high-capacity magazines (61%). Vast majorities of the public clearly support efforts to curtail gun violence. The “bad news” is that so many politicians continue to take their marching orders from the N.R.A. and gun rights enthusiasts, opposing commonsense efforts to curtail this epidemic of gun violence.
Organized medicine is part of the movement for sensible gun violence prevention. We are involved because we experience the devastation of gun violence in our emergency rooms, our hospitals and our medical offices. As we’ve said countless times, we are “the last lane” in the treating of the victims of gun violence, and our voices clamor for appropriate steps to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our country. We know this is a public health emergency. More than 75 national medical groups have endorsed commonsense gun bills, including the American Medical Association. Indeed, the New Hampshire Medical Society has led the way in supporting many gun violence prevention efforts including the three pieces of gun violence legislation passed by the New Hampshire legislature this session.
The three pieces of legislation are House Bills 109, 514 and 564. Governor Sununu vetoed all of them, which has led to the possibility of an override vote this coming week in the legislature. Governor Sununu’s explanations for his vetoes echo the talking points we always hear from the NRA and gun rights activists. For example, they always state that “guns don’t kill people, people do” even though it is so clear that it’s people with guns who do the shooting, either to themselves (approximately 22,000 suicides with guns in the U.S. last year) or to others (approximately 14,000 homicides with guns last year). They also point to the problem being a mental health problem, trying to move the responsibility to the mental health care system and away from the weapons. These time worn explanations just don’t cut it. These three important public safety bills that were passed by the NH legislature are crucial to the ongoing effort in our state to have an impact on this horrendous epidemic of gun violence.