Last week I found myself near the site of the nation’s most recent mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. I was there attending a community newspaper association meeting, but found a local perspective on the shooting that I would like to share with you this week.
The Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney had the opportunity to sit in on a press conference with Dr. Janis Orlowski, the senior administrator for the district’s largest trauma center after this most recent shooting. Orlowski spoke up at the end of a news conference where she was briefing the media on treatment of people wounded in the Navy Yard shooting, which left 13 dead, including the gunman. In unplanned comments, she used plain, direct language expressing her frustration having seen first hand the destruction in both Chicago and now in the nation’s capital. Orlowski’s news conference came a few hours after she gave notice that she will resign from her positions as chief medical officer and chief operating officer at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked into the emergency room and seen principally a dead young man lying on the cart. We are violent, we are aggressive, and we kill our own. That’s what I see,” she said. She went on to say, the “senseless trauma” is “something evil in our society.” She urged the public to: “Put my trauma center out of business. . . . I would like to not be an expert on gunshots.”
Dr. Orlowski went on to stress that while she would support stricter gun laws, legislation, she believes, is not the only answer to end this all too often reoccurring event.
“I don’t believe that if you have gun control, then the world is good. I believe it’s a combination of how we view guns, how they’re available in our society, what we do with mental health, what we do with those people who find themselves on the fringes of society,” Orlowski said. To rely only on the government, she said, “is in some ways a cop out.”
Orlowski said it is critical for society as a whole to identify and treat people suffering from aggression, post-traumatic stress or other mental-health problems.
Like so many of the problems facing us these days, we seem incapable of doing anything more than standing on one side of the political aisle or the other. These mass shootings and the illegal use of guns across the nation are not easily resolved and we make them far more difficult to address when we energize the issue with politics.
Society as a whole needs to do more then wait for a political resolution. As Dr. Olowski expressed, “bad behavior with guns wasn’t just forbidden by your parents, but it was forbidden by society.”
Unfortunately our collective common sense is nearly non existent when it comes to this issue. On one hand we glorify gun violence in video games, on the internet, in music lyrics and television shows while suspending elementary school children for pointing a finger at someone or drawing a picture of a gun.
Like so many of these issues we appear capable enough to recognize the critical effect these issues cause within society but we apparently lack sufficient backbone and common sense to work across political and personal perspectives to seek solutions that address the specific causes. Instead of taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of those among us with aggression or mental health issues we seek to place more regulation on lawful gun owners. Instead of being concerned with weapons and ammunition being consumed at gun shows we worry about the quantity of ammunition being purchased by the government.
We allow commercials on TV glorifying the most recent release of violent video games like Grand Theft Auto V, whose sales on the new release have surpassed more than one billion. As a society we lack the self control to differentiate between good clean fun and commercial profiteering. We need to face the simple facts that what we call entertainment today is very much at the root of many of society’s problems.
I know what many of you are thinking, this is a free society and we have rights that are not to be censured. But with the freedom we enjoy we must also be vigilant to the abuses of those freedoms and the seduction of greed while recognizing the effects these forms of entertainment have on those of an impaired state of mind.
As a responsible society we must either seek common ground to address these concerns or be prepared to relive these shooting events over and over again until we come to grips with what we already know needs to be done. We must seek self imposed controls on our appetite for consuming these potential triggers and we must better control those not capable of possessing lethal weapons.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.