February 19, 2018

In today’s blog post I was going to write about the AMA Advocacy Meeting that Jim Potter, Bill Kassler, Georgia Tuttle and I attended in Washington, D.C., on February 12-14. However, another school shooting involving seventeen deaths has overshadowed that very positive opportunity that we had to meet with Senators Shaheen and Hassan and their staffs, Congresswoman Kuster and her staff, and staff of Congresswoman Shea-Porter. Our meetings were both enjoyable and productive, as we have excellent representation on “the Hill.” We came home to New Hampshire, however, on February 14, Valentine’s Day, to confront yet another gun-related tragedy.

In Parkland, Florida, we now have another school and community devastated by gun-related violence and death. For many of us, we are inured to this so common violence because it is both so prevalent and so unfettered by the policies of our federal government and so many of our state governments. Simply stated, more thoughts and prayers are not what we need to confront gun-violence. Words are wholly inadequate, of course, to stem this tide of violence. And comments to shore up mental health services that actually tend to be reduced by government rather than increased are not the answer either, although more support for mental health services would surely be helpful.

Let me be blunt, as supporters of our current president like to express that “he tells it like it is.” The problem is guns, guns, guns! There are far too many guns in our country and far too many in the wrong hands. All countries have equal mental health concerns, but what is unique about our country is our gun-related violence. The problem is guns. And the solution is adequate gun control restrictions. The states with the most gun-related restrictions (New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California) have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths (murder, suicide and accidents) and the states with the least gun-related restrictions (Alabama, Louisiana and Alaska) have the highest rates of gun-related deaths (Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence). Simply stated, strict gun laws lead to less gun-related violence, as has been demonstrated in Canada, Great Britain and Australia, among others.

The New Hampshire Medical Society is in the process of reviewing the laws in New Hampshire in an effort to reduce gun-related violence in our state. We began this discussion at our Executive Council Meeting on February 14, the same day of the latest gun-related tragedy. We are planning further discussion of this issue at our next Executive Council meeting on March 14. Included for deliberation will be potential policy positions related to assault weapons, bump stocks, magazine size, reinstituting permitting for concealed weapons, removing guns from persons who are seriously mentally ill and potentially dangerous and removal of guns for persons charged with domestic abuse. We will also discuss requiring registration of all firearms in NH. We require licenses and registration for all kinds of activities, especially driving, which can and is potentially dangerous, so why not guns?

I want to encourage all members of the New Hampshire Medical Society to weigh in on this crucial issue of public health safety.  Please communicate your thoughts and concerns to me or any other members of the Executive Council.  I can be reached at lenkorn.md@gmail.com.

Len Korn, MD

NHMS President