Chicago county health system calls for federal gun control
As thousands rally in the nation's capital and around the country this weekend to protest for tougher gun control laws, a delegation from one of the country's largest public health systems will ask lawmakers to create policies to end gun violence.
Leaders from Chicago's Cook County Health and Hospital Systems are in Washington D.C., to participate in the March for Our Lives protest on Saturday.
The system's CEO Dr. John Jay Shannon said that coming from one of the country's most troubled cities, he had to share his personal perspective on gun violence. The system is home to one of the nation's busiest trauma units. It provided care for more than 1,100 gunshot victims in 2017 at its flagship facility, John H. Stroger Hospital.
"It's pretty clear that the impact that gun violence has had particularly on the nation's youth seems to be reaching a tipping point," Shannon said, adding that he would speak with members of Congress this weekend to call for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, as well as a strengthening of universal background check requirements for all firearm purchases. Shannon said he also would support requiring all gun sellers to have a dealer license. Shannon supports funding of gun violence research and an investment in the immediate and long-term recovery needs of victims.
The debate over gun control has been reignited across the country following the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland Florida, where a lone gunman killed 17 people.
Student survivors from that ordeal became the architects of a national campaign to implement tougher gun control laws.
A view of the March for Our Lives rally, at 7th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. (Credit: Cook County Health and Hospital Systems)
According to CCHHS, between Feb. 14 and March 18, 191 people were shot in Chicago. The system reportedly spends an average of between $30,000 and 50,000 to treat a gunshot victim. Every year, treating gunshot victims costs CCHHS a total of between $30 million and $40 million.
"I see violence every night," said Dr. Faran Bokhari, chair of the Trauma and Burn Surgery Unit at CCHHS. "The cumulative magnitude is much greater than the mass shootings that hit the media and then disappear really fast."
Chicago reported 650 murders last year, a decline from the more than 770 murders recorded in 2016. That was the city's deadliest year in almost 20 years.
Gun proponents have often used Chicago's high homicide rate to argue against gun control legislation, since the city has some of the strictest gun ownership laws in the country.
Bokhari said those arguments ignore that many of the guns used to kill people are bought from other states with more lax gun laws.
Between 2013 and 2016, Chicago police recovered nearly 7,000 illegal guns, according to a 2017 city report. Sixty percent of those were bought from out of state. Indiana was the original point of sale for 21% of all illegal guns recovered in Chicago.
"We think this is the exact rationale for why gun laws have to be at the national level." Shannon said. "This is a situation where you can only do so much at the local level – if you're really going to have an impact on this, it has to be federal legislation."
From left to right, Dr. Faran Bokhari, Carol Reese, Dr. Jay Shannon, Deshon Hannah, Dantrell Blake, Andy Wheeler, Alex Normington, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Paul Beddoe and Delwin Gadlen. The CCHHS delegation marched on the Capitol to call for federal gun legislation. (Credit: Cook County Health and Hospital Systems)
A growing number of providers and advocacy organizations have joined the push for tougher gun control measures. Groups including the Greater New York Hospital Association and the American Academy of Nursing earlier this month wrote letters urging Congress to enact gun control legislation or take other actions.
On Friday, members of the group, National Nurses United announced plans to join in several marches scheduled to take place in D.C., as well as cities in Florida, Texas and California on Saturday.
"The activist students deserve the nation's thanks for demanding policy makers finally pass needed reforms as well as stimulating a national dialogue on what steps we should, as a nation, take to protect our children, our families, and all of our people from what is clearly a preventable form of violence," said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN earlier this month.
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