Let’s stop the epidemic of gun violence in America

By Janet Fitch and Joette Rockow, October 31, 2012

The shooting at the spa in Brookfield, Wis., on Oct. 21, underscores the need to finally do something about gun violence.

This violence is as much a suburban problem as it is an urban problem.

In the suburbs of Milwaukee, the horror of gun violence was already fresh in our minds after the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek on Aug. 5, which took six lives. The Brookfield spa killings were a hideous echo.

Gun violence is not a “ central city” issue. Gun violence is about America; it is about all of us, and serious action is needed. We can’t sit back and do nothing as more of our fellow citizens get gunned down.

The U.S. firearm homicide rate is about 20 times higher than in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Our inertia on this issue is the result of the radical gun lobby’s 50-year spin campaign to distort the debate and turn it into a contest between those who favor gun rights versus those who favor sensible gun control.

Our major presidential candidates have dodged the issue. Most members of Congress won’t go near it. And much of the media underplay it, except when there is another mass tragedy, even though there are plenty of gun tragedies every day.

So here we are, still mourning the loss of innocent victims to senseless and preventable gun violence.

We need a new framework for dealing with this issue: a public health and prevention framework.

Public health professionals combat other epidemics by offering realistic proposals to stem the tide, implementing preventive strategies, and projecting outcomes if we don’t do what is necessary. We can do the same with the epidemic of gun violence.

Here’s the really good news: hundreds of exemplary public health projects across the United States are already working toward this goal. Our political leaders should endorse these projects.

Gun violence is not a partisan issue, just as it is not a geographic issue. But in a political climate that promotes division and hatred, it is often the poster child for issues that divide us.

We can do better. Let’s follow through with these public health projects and construct a safe and hopeful future with far fewer violent gun deaths, and far fewer devastated survivors.

All of our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and we must promise them that beyond our sorrow, a gathering sense of long-delayed outrage will finally turn this tide around.

Janet Fitch is a Milwaukee-based filmmaker and director of the “ Guns, Grief & Grace in America” trilogy. The concluding film is titled, “ Changing the Conversation: America’s Gun Violence Epidemic.” www.ChangeGunViolence.com. Joette Rockow is a senior lecturer in the journalism, advertising and media studies department at UW-Milwaukee. They can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.