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October 13, 2015
Senate Judiciary Committee
Lansing, Michigan
Opposition to SB 442
Sonya Lewis, MD, MPH

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Guests.

I am honored to speak to you today as a representative of Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence (PPGV), a group of approximately 300 Michigan physicians who are working across the state to address the devastating epidemic of firearm violence that has affected our state and our country. As a psychiatrist, a public health advocate, and the mother of two school-aged children, I have a professional and personal interest in reducing the risks for firearm-related injuries and ensuring the safety of our children. I am confident that none us here want to experience another Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Umpqua, or any shooting – high profile or otherwise – ever again.

PPGV strongly opposes Senate Bill 442. This bill, if passed, will threaten the health and safety of countless men, women and children in our state by making it easier to bring guns into sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals, bars, and places of worship. This is a dangerous bill that should never become law.

Gun violence in America is a public health crisis. With over 30,000 deaths and twice that many injuries per year attributable to gun violence (“Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence – Gun Law Information Experts,” 2015) we cannot ignore this national emergency. We must address this problem immediately, and to do so we must use a public health approach. One of the fundamental components of public health is prevention. We seek to reduce and eliminate risk before illness, injury or tragedy strikes. In my remarks today, I will demonstrate that guns in our environment, particularly in areas such as those addressed in SB 442 represent an unacceptable risk, and the only logical way to promote health and safety is to reduce – not increase – exposure to firearms.

Firearms have no place in our schools where they may become easily available to children if left unsecured. Prior research demonstrates that one third of homes with children contain firearms and that in over 40% of these homes, firearms are not stored safely (Schuster et all, 2000). Since we know that unsafe storage of firearms in the home is common, we have no reason to expect that guns would be safety stored in schools. Let me remind you of the Macomb County assistant prosecutor – a CPL holder – who in March of this year absentmindedly left his jacket in the gymnasium of his son’s elementary school. Concealed within the jacket was a handgun. Thankfully in this instance nobody was harmed (Burns, 2015). However, this situation could easily have ended tragically. Consider the following statistics:

♣ 50% of all fatal firearm accidents among children occurred after a child found and began playing with an unsecured firearm (NVDRS 2010).
♣ 25% of children as young as 3-4 years old are strong enough to pull the trigger on a firearm that they find while playing (Naureckas, Galanter, Naureckas, Donovan, & Christoffel, 1995).
♣ Among high school youth – suicide is the third leading cause of death (CDC, 2010). We know that adolescents can frequently act on impulse, a potentially lethal scenario when coupled with access to unsecured firearms.

With these facts in mind, how many of us here would feel comfortable if our children had access to unsecured firearms at school?

Proponents of SB 442 will tell you that the presence of firearms will prevent injury by allowing teachers and adults to act defensively in the face of a threat. However in a 2015 study, Hemenway & Solnick showed that firearms were used in less than 1% of violent crimes as a defensive weapon, and
among events where a firearm was used defensively there was no evidence that they decreased the risk of injury to the victim. Why, then, if the increased presence of firearms doesn’t actually confer a benefit would we allow them onto our school campuses particularly when the risks of injury are well established?

Proponents of SB 442 will tell you that expanding right to carry laws leads to reduced crime. This argument is based on a deeply flawed study from 1997, but unfortunately, is still widely cited. The National Research Council has discredited the conclusions from this study and subsequent research has actually suggested that expanding right to carry laws may be associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in some crimes (Anaja, Donohue, & Zhang, 2012). Why, then, if credible research fails to demonstrate any benefit to the expansion of right to carry laws would we ever consider making it easier to carry guns into our schools, our hospitals and our places of worship?

Proponents of SB 442 will maintain that only properly licensed and trained CPL holders will be allowed to carry firearms in these sensitive areas – as if that should provide us reassurance. Let me remind you of the minimal training that is required of CPL holders in the state of Michigan (Michigan State Police, 2014):
• New CPL applicants only need 8 hours of training, and only 3 of those need be on a firing range.
• The CPL is valid for 5 years. No continuing education or training is required during this period.
• To renew a CPL an applicant need only certify that he has reviewed three hours worth of safety training and spent ONE hour on a firing range in the preceding 6 months.

This very low level of training should give us significant pause as we consider the challenges a CPL holder might face in an active shooter situation. To quote Harvard researcher David Hemenway:

Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion, and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it is difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately (Diaz 2001a). Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes. Individuals without training are likely to do much worse. (Hemenway, 2004, p. 70)

Are we to seriously believe that ordinary citizens with limited practical experience are capable of mounting an effective response in an active shooter scenario?

Finally, Proponents of SB 442 argue that allowing for concealed carry rather than open carry is a valid solution to the “open carry loophole” because it will eliminate the disruption and fear that open carry creates. I submit to you that out of sight does not equal out of mind. More importantly, out of sight does not equal out of danger! A concealed threat is no less dangerous than one that is visible. Guns, openly carried or concealed have no place in schools, hospitals, bars, houses of worship, or in any of the other areas impacted by this bill.

In closing, I am confident that I speak for all of us here today when I say we all wish for peace and safety throughout our state, our country, and our world. Where we disagree sharply is how to achieve that goal. While proponents of SB 442 may believe that they have the right to carry firearms in virtually all locations at all times, I want you to carefully consider the evidence I have presented today that clearly illustrates why this practice is dangerous. When we decrease exposure to hazards, we decrease the likelihood of harm. It is incumbent upon us to minimize risk in order to maximize health and safety. We must keep firearms out of schools and all of the other sensitive areas impacted by SB 442. Our children’s lives depend on it.

Thank you.

Works Cited:

Anaja, A., Donohue, J., & Zhang, A. (2012). The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy. National Bureau of Economic Research.
Burns, G. (2015, March 3). http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2015/03/macomb_county_assistant_prosec.html. MLive [Ann Arbor, MI].

Hemenway, D. (2004). Private guns, public health. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Hemenway, D., & Solnick, S. J. (2015). The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007-2011. Prev Med, 10(79), 22-27. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.03.029

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence – Gun Law Information Experts. (2015, April 17). Retrieved from http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-statistics/

Michigan State Police. (2014, October). Concealed Pistol License Guide and Application. Retrieved from http://michigan.gov/documents/ri-012_7736_7.pdf

Michigan State Police. (2014, October). Concealed Pistol License Guide and Application. Retrieved from http://michigan.gov/documents/ri-012_7736_7.pdf

National Research Council. (2005). Firearms and Violence: A
Critical Review. Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on
Firearms. Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie, editors.
Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and
Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Naureckas, S. M., Galanter, C., Naureckas, E. T., Donovan, M., & Christoffel, K. K. (1995). Children’s and women’s ability to fire handguns. The Pediatric Practice Research Group. Archives of Pediatric Medicine, 149(12), 1318-1322.

Products – Data Briefs – Number 37 – May 2010. (2010, May 5). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db37.htm

Schuster, M. A., Franke, T. M., Bastian, A. M., Sor, S., & Halfon, N. (2000). Firearm storage patterns in US homes with children. American Journal of Public Health, 90(4), 588-594.

U.P. -The Road Trip turns North – 500 miles North.

September 30th, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The PPGV-MSU tour pulled into Marquette on 9/24 for a talk on 9/25. Dr. Bill Wadland and I ate and slept and then met Bill Short, MD, CEO and Community Associate Dean of MSU for Northern Michigan for breakfast the next morning. It was a fine start!
Everyone seems to love Marquette- and why not? It’s the “Paris of the UP” and is very pretty with rolling hills overlooking the bay on beautiful Lake Superior. At noon we spoke after chatting with students, residents and staff of the MSU site. It was another fine encounter with good observations about gun issues. Dr. Wadland’s cases are provocative and very good for the discussion. Our new mission statement “PPGV- Michigan Physicians; Educated and Empowered to Advocate for Gun Violence Prevention” gained power from this grand rounds.
PPGV added another 18 physicians and students including Bill Wadland, Bill Short, Stuart Johnson, DO, the Program Director and Ryan Brang MD another faculty member. They will be our northern satellite and this is a good start in the U.P. Dr. William Wadland and I are thinking of how we can empower each part of the group. His background as Professor and Chair of Family Medicine includes excellent clinical, research and writing skills. Bill serves as the Assistant Editor of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He’s already created this MSU tour for us. PPGV is “on the move” with Dr. Wadland’s help!

PPGV Road Trip Begins

September 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Homecoming-Hurley Hospital Style
Bill Wadland, Jim Peggs and I went to Hurley on 9/17/15 and had a warm reception! I hadn’t been there
for over 5 decades. When I was a UM med student I tried to go to Flint and other outlying sites for rotations whenever I could. I loved Hurley and spent several months there. They treated you so well! I was a junior doctor there in contrast to being a “peon” at the U. It was great!
Now, it was great to be back. Dr. Ghassan “Gus” Bachuwa and his staff made us welcome. And the residents and guests joined us in a lively discussion on gun violence. Almost 20 new members of PPGV signed on with us. Some shared stories. A provocative one concerned a new doctor from Hurley who began practice in a nearby small town and asked about guns with his patients. Soon, a couple of men came and sat him down and told him that he shouldn’t do that in this town. Wow! What do you do then?
In the meantime we are keeping our eye on SB 0442 that allows concealed carry gun permit holders to bring guns into schools, clinics, bars, places of worship, etc. This bill is trouble!
And next we visit Marquette this week and Traverse City next- a road adventure for sure!

Last night 9/15/15 was a presentation to the Washtenaw County Medical Society by Drs. Lewis, Peggs, Walden and Zweifler on “Gun Violence and Firearm Safety: the Physician’s Role.” It was stimulating! There was a lively discussion by the 45 or so attending. Points were made about guns not being “child proof” if they were not “adult proof” – a gun safe is an initial purchase before a gun. Guns could be stored in a pawn shop while someone was recovering from mental illness. Most voted to remove guns while a depressed family member got well. And when confronted with an armed patient in the office you can call law officers for trespass or engage in why he brought it. Handle it carefully to prevent accidental discharge. Discharge is also quite possible when re-holstering a gun. Many ideas to ponder.
We had lots of favorable comments and 6 or 7 new members signed on. The dinner and evening were both fine- WCMS was most hospitable!
Next, the MSU gun violence prevention tour begins on 9/17 at Hurley in Flint. Drs. Peggs, Walden and MSU’s Bill Wadland will present there and follow later in the month at Marquette and Traverse City.
The storm-SB 0442 if passed will allow those who apply for a concealed carry permit to take their gun into schools if they request. You, our members, recently affirmed your opposition to guns in schools in a question to you. PPGV and WCMS will oppose this bill. A child is 50 times more likely to get killed outside school than inside. Schools are quite safe and should be as gun free as possible.

http://www.mlive.com/opinion/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/09/gun_violence_and_michigan_chil.html

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Detroit’s Silence the Violence March- June 27, 2015

July 2nd, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Pouring rain and strong winds did not dampen the energy and enthusiasm of those of us who participated in the 8th Annual Silence the Violence March and People’s Festival this past weekend in Detroit. Led by Pastor Barry Randolph of the World Famous Church of the Messiah, the march was an opportunity to speak out against the horrific gun violence that has relentlessly affected Detroit and surrounding communities. As we walked peacefully through the streets of Detroit, Pastor Barry led us in chants of “Silence the Violence!”, “It’s our neighborhoods our streets!”, and “Stand up, speak out!”. Participants carried banners representing numerous organizations including Crime Stoppers, Cease Fire Detroit and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. We also held signs created by the Remember Me Quilt Project of Michigan that featured photographs of innocent victims of gun violence. The march was an opportunity to mourn the tragic deaths of these individuals, to celebrate their lives, and to offer comfort to surviving families, friends, and loved ones. It also served as a powerful platform to protest senseless gun violence and to work collaboratively for change.

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell gave an impassioned speech in which she referenced her personal experiences with threats of gun violence and implored us to work for change. Other luminaries included Wayne County executive, Warren Evans, Detroit Police Captain, Kyra Hope, representatives from the Detroit City Council, and Andrew Humphrey from WDIV channel 4. This event was also a celebration of the 100th birthday of activist Grace Lee Boggs.

Gun violence is all too familiar to members of the Church of the Messiah. In the week prior to this year’s march at least 27 Detroiters were shot, 3 fatally. Tragically, two of Pastor Barry’s church members were killed in the days prior to the march. With deep sadness, he announced that he would be presiding over one of the funerals following the day’s festivities. Looming large in our collective outrage was the recent atrocity in Charleston where nine innocent members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were gunned down by a white supremacist during a bible study session.

Pastor Barry Randolph approaches gun violence as a problem that is multi-faceted, rooted in numerous interconnected societal ills. He recognizes that problems such as poverty, unemployment, blight, drug abuse, crime and hopelessness are often a toxic combination, especially when combined with unfettered access to guns. The Church of the Messiah has developed a holistic approach to the problem of gun violence. In addition to serving as a religious gathering place, the church also empowers its members by facilitating economic development and community pride. Through the tireless efforts of Pastor Barry, the church offers members opportunities to learn about financial literacy and assists members in creating their own new businesses. Additionally, the church helps people find affordable housing and provides true hope for individuals who may have very few resources. By mobilizing coalitions of religious, community, business, law enforcement, and government leaders, the church strives to strengthen community, reduce crime, and eliminate associated gun violence.

It was truly a privilege to be part of this energetic, positive, and passionate gathering. As Pastor Barry concluded his remarks to the crowd, he reminded us that it’s not enough simply to attend a march and carry a banner. Rather, we all must do our part to work continuously to end violence and the societal ills that breed it. Each one of us individually and through organizations such as PPGV must help to heal our communities by speaking up for what is right, and by promoting safety and sanity in our world. I am proud to be affiliated with PPGV as we work together to achieve lasting and meaningful solutions.

A Week of Hope June 27

June 29th, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Docs-
This week brought a sea change- from the despair of the Charleston, S.C. shootings to the hope of the Supreme Court rulings on health care and gay marriage. And we are bouyed by the decisions to bring down the Confederate flag, a painful symbol of the wrong of slavery and opposition to civil rights.
Hope is high that something will change in gun violence and the president called for this change yesterday in his eulogy of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Now we physicians can follow the president’s lead and speak strongly about the need to abandon the gun as a way of solving problems. The gun, too, is a wrong symbol, and like the Confederate flag one that many in our country revere. But, when a gun death or injury happens too often it is life altering and wrong.
So today the sheriff is leading a buy back effort at the Brown Chapel in Ypsilanti and Bethesda Bible Church in Pittsfield township. Go to Washtenaw Co Sheriff for details. www.ewashtenaw.org/government/sheriff or @WSheriff for Twitter.
Sonya Lewis and other PPGV doctors will march against gun violence in Detroit at 11 am today. Silence the Violence Parade begins at Church of the Mesiah in Detroit to counter the tragedy of violence in our great city. Join in.
And we can lead by ASKing- the ASK campaign national day was this week, June 21. The question “Is there a gun where my child is plays?” This critical question, perhaps led by “Where do our kids play when they come to your house?” goes to the issue of unlocked, often loaded guns in many homes. Parents are responsible to make sure their kids don’t find and use them. ASK.
We have work to do to become a safer country. We have a history of being leaders. Speaking up about gun violence with colleagues and patients can make a difference. We can have great hope!

Washtenaw County Gun Safety Week and Other News

June 20th, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Docs-

PPGV will again partner with the Washtenaw County Law Enforcement in Washtenaw County Gun Safety Week. Please join your physician colleagues at a press conference at 11 am June 22 at the WCSO, 2201 Hogback.

“Washtenaw County and our Washtenaw County Law Enforcement agencies will again be participating in a Washtenaw County Gun Safety Week June 21 through June 27, 2015. We would like Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence to be a partner again this year in this endeavor to publicize and educate our community about gun safety issues. Law Enforcement agencies will be giving away free gun locks to the public and information about gun safety.”

Other PPGV news.
Tsvedi Markova, MD, has recently joined PPGV. She is professor and Chair of Family Medicine and Public Health at Wayne State University(WSU). She is Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and Designated Institutional Official for Wayne State University sponsored programs. In 2008 she was Michigan Academy of Family Medicine’s (MAFP) Educator of the Year. She has an extensive bio as a clinician, researcher, scholar and medical leader.
She and Pierre Morris MD who chairs WSU’s residency program were instrumental in gaining the support of the entire department’s faculty in writing a strong letter of support to the Michigan Academy urging the MAFP to become a leader in gun violence reduction. The MAFP voted to do this. At a recent coffee Jim Peggs and I were impressed with her commitment not only to medicine and that serving patients well includes her commitment to reducing gun violence.
Sonya Lewis, MD, local psychiatrist and leader of the citizen movement to keep guns out of Michigan schools has become a member of our PPGV Executive Committee. Add your voice to this effort to keep our kids safely in school.
Welcome Drs. Markova and Lewis!

A Church WearsOrange

June 10th, 2015 | Posted by in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

 

 

ECI_07June2015_WearOrange

 

An Ann Arbor church, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation on Lohr Rd. in Pittsfield Township

got its Orange On June 7 for National Gun Violence Awareness Month. Almost all the congregation showed up aiming to make us safer!