Together, community members, business leaders and government decision-makers can solve difficult issues. This was the theme of the third and final installment of the OHSU-PSU Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue forum series that took place June 20 at the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on Portland’s South Waterfront.
“We experience the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every month and a half in this country due to guns,” said keynote speaker John Rosenthal. “Gun violence is preventable. We, as business and policy leaders, have the power to change the conversation and to change lives.” Rosenthal, a Boston-based real estate developer, is the founder of Stop Handgun Violence.
The solution is not eliminating guns from society, Rosenthal continued. It’s instilling common sense in terms of gun safety and policy. Drawing from his experiences in Massachusetts, the state with the lowest rate of gun deaths, Rosenthal suggests that other states, including Oregon, which in 2015 passed a law requiring background checks for private gun sales, provide mandatory firearm training for gun owners and easy access to child safety devices, and eliminate high-capacity ammunition magazines.
John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., interim dean of the OHSU School of Medicine and co-planner of the June 20 forum, likened the lack of gun safety measures today to absence of seatbelts in the 1950s. What was once viewed as an impediment to a basic American freedom, he said, is now a standard in cars around the world because industry, public health advocates and government came together to solve a problem.
Brian Gibbs, Ph.D., M.P.A., vice president for equity and inclusion at OHSU and associate professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, called for a local effort to improve community wellness.
“OHSU and PSU are in the businesses of public health, health care and science,” he said. “While we can surgically remove bullets, stitch people up and provide medication or mental health services, upon discharge our patients are likely to return to the same community that puts them at risk for further violence, abuse and even suicide.”
With the three-part forum series now complete, the work to build on existing community efforts to address the gun violence epidemic in Oregon begins. Members of the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee will review feedback and data received from Tuesday’s forum, as well as the two previous events focused on members of the OHSU and PSU workforce and a broad group of community members, respectively. Findings will be translated into research, education and advocacy recommendations outlining next steps to address gun violence as a public health issue in Oregon. The report is expected later this year.
“These forums have shown me that we can move from complacency to action,” said Hunter. “We are here to catalyze change, and together we will define next steps to reduce gun violence in our communities. I can’t wait to get started.”
A podcast featuring Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue III: The Role of Business, is available here.
Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue III: The Role of Business, featured:
- A keynote address by John E. Rosenthal, founder, Stop Handgun Violence, and president, Meredith Management
- Remarks from: Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., president, OHSU; John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., interim dean, OHSU School of Medicine; and Brian Gibbs, Ph.D., M.P.A., vice president for Equity and Inclusion, OHSU
- A panel discussion about the preventability of gun violence, featuring experts from OHSU, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, Friends of the Children and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center
Details about the OHSU-PSU Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue initiative are available at www.ohsu.edu/standtogether.