Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: Tackle gun violence the way we did smoking

December 20, 2012 

Dr. Gilbert H. Friedell is board president of the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation and director emeritus of the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

It is long past time for us, as a nation, to recognize that in the matter of gun control it is the health and safety of the public which is now at stake.

That overrides the right of individuals to use guns as they alone see fit, the Second Amendment notwithstanding.

Our high level of gun violence has to be seen as a critical public health concern.

We have a frequently recurring epidemic of this lethal disease in our communities, and it is time to reduce the incidence and mortality of the disease by appropriate gun control.

We must do whatever we can to diminish the effects of the established disease, but for sure we must take preventive action as soon as possible to contain the epidemic.

And we have a recent example in many of our Kentucky communities — and across the country — of how to do this when dealing with another deadly epidemic: tobacco use.

Kentuckians finally said "enough" to the highest rates of death from lung cancer and among the highest rates from heart disease.

Increasing numbers of town and city governments are banning cigarette smoking in public places, recognizing that smokers not only put themselves at risk, but that second hand smoke is killing non-smokers in their families and communities.

It is true we are abridging the rights of individuals to smoke in some places, but we have said clearly that the health and safety of the society come first.

I believe this is the basis on which we can and must do something about gun control on behalf of our children, whose very right to survive is being taken from them by individuals who have no awareness of, or concern for, the rights of the community to live in safety.

The "individual rights" championed by the National Rifle Association are not of a higher order than the rights of communities to see their children go peacefully to and from their schools, or have fathers and mothers go to and return from work without facing gun violence.

Is the political clout of the National Rifle Association great enough to have our elected officials renounce their sworn duty to defend us from harm?

Has the murder of little children and action to prevent more of it taken second place to someone's election to office? What is the comparative value of a child's life against another term in Congress? Or in a state legislature?

That's what we are talking about here — elected officials refusing to take responsible action to save innocent lives in a school, a college, a movie theater or in some other venue.

When do we say "enough"? And when do we act?

Dr. Gilbert H. Friedell is board president of the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation and director emeritus of the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

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