Our Opinion: Preventive medicine applied to gun violence

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The opening of a gun violence prevention center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston Monday offers another example of the state's leadership on this problem from both public and private sectors. In the absence of anything resembling leadership on gun deaths and injuries in Washington, D.C., more states must follow Massachusetts' lead.

Last week, a bill was filed on Beacon Hill requiring the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to provide a report every two years on the sources of guns used in crimes and the effectiveness of measures designed to find lost and stolen guns (editorial, June 7). The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Gun Violence Prevention will have a similar goal of collecting information that will curtail gun violence. The center will essentially engage in another form of preventive medicine. Along with saving severely injured gun violence victims from death, said Dr. Peter Masakios, an MGH surgeon who is co-director of the new center, at Monday's opening ceremony, doctors "also share a special obligation to better understand the causes, the social determinants of these injuries, and to prevent them from occurring in the first place." An effort to do exactly this at the federal level was squashed by congressmen in league with the gun lobby.

Co-director Dr. Chana Sacks told the State House News Service that gun violence breaks down into four different categories, beginning with the mass shootings that "grip our national attention." The homicides and assaults that are part of the fabric of everyday America and disproportionately affect communities of color too often go under the radar, said Dr. Sacks. This second category of gun violence is certainly known in the Berkshires. Unintentional deaths and injuries caused by guns is the third category and the fourth is suicide, which Dr. Sacks said is "the least talked-about type of gun violence."

Better gun information leads to better gun policy. This is the simple premise behind both the bill before the Legislature and the MGH Center's welcome effort. MGH is providing $1.2 million in seed funding for center research into gun violence, clinical care, education and community involvement.

Joining state and MGH officials at Monday's ceremony was Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was one of the 20 students killed in the 2012 gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Dr. Sacks, who is a cousin of Mr. Barden, said Monday that following the shooting she "witnessed the worst pain I've ever seen up close." Thousands have experienced up close the pain of a friend or family member gunned down in America. Every effort dedicated to preventing this kind of pain is welcome and to be encouraged.

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