Dear SAHM,
 
In recent months, I have written about about the crushing weight of urban violence in places like Baltimore, recognizing how everyday trauma eats away at the sparks that young people need to survive. I am equally concerned about the epidemic of gun violence in the United States as manifested in these mass shootings and the underlying discrimination that belies at least three of them.
 
As an organization, we have advocated for universal background checks, against automatic weapon access, and efforts to fund public health research on gun violence in America, but it seems that these are just band-aids being used to close a gaping and hemorrhaging wound. A 2017 policy analysis published in the New York Times demonstrated that gun ownership is highly correlated with death due to gun violence. Americans represent less than 5% of the world's population but own 42% of the guns. We rank second in the world for deaths due to gun violence accounting for population size. Counter to pundits who simply focus on the shooter's issues, easy gun access is literally killing us. 
 
While we grieve with the families and communities in Ohio, California, Mississippi, and Texas let us continue to work together to advocate for a better, safer world. As I read the stories of a young couple in El Paso, who sacrificed themselves so that their 2-month-old son could live and an off-duty soldier, who acted to save children in distress, I found myself wondering how we can convince leaders to become heroes by taking a stand on what has become a public health problem. 
 
Some have said that if America did not change when a gunman walked into a school and killed 20 elementary school children and 6 of the adults charged with their education, it would never change. While this may appear to be the case given that we have had 251 mass shootings in less than a year, #252 is preventable. As many have said before me.....'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' Let us not grow weary in the overwhelming weight of our sadness and disgust.
 
SAHM members, please to take a moment this week to engage in one act of advocacy in honor of those victims. Write a letter, call, or ask to meet with one of your representatives in Congress or state legislatures, testify before the city council, write an opinion piece for your local newspaper, talk to students at your local middle or high school, meet with your regional chapter to brainstorm, begin to create a coalition of diverse individuals who are mobilized to encourage those in leadership to effect change, or call a colleague who was impacted and ask them what they need. 
 
Finally, let us also be prepared to have those difficult conversations with young people. As we try to convince them that they are safe when they see a different story unfolding on the news, in their communities, and on their phones, we must work harder to make it be true. This is when we put our hoodies on as grownups to shield young people from harm
 
 
Maria Trent, MD, MPH, FAAP, FSAHM
President, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

More in this Section