Oakland medical, political leaders tackle gun violence
Pontiac – Medical professionals and politicians huddled Tuesday in Oakland County on how they might be able to work together to decrease gun violence.
Employees of Beaumont Farmington Hills Hospital appeared before a committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to discuss what needs to be done.
All agreed that free gun lock programs – like a county initiative that has distributed more than 10,000 locks the past three years – are helpful but educational programs for families and physicians are needed too.
Children need protection from firearms left unattended and accessible in the home.
Young people particularly need to develop conflict resolution skills so they don’t resort to violence, including gunplay, to settle their disputes.
“There is no easy solution to our nation’s epidemic of gun violence,” said Commissioner William Dwyer, R-Farmington Hills, who was chairing the public services committee in the commissioners’ meeting room. “Tackling this complex problem requires an innovative and multi-pronged approach that incorporates insight and expertise from a variety of perspectives.”
Dwyer noted it was the sixth hearing his committee has held on gun violence. Beaumont Hospital officials were eager to share their experience.
“We see 60,000 emergency and trauma patients annually,” Constance O’Malley, president of Beaumont Farmington Hills, told the committee Tuesday. “… Two percent are from handguns and the highest number are victims between 18 and 30 years old.”
O’Malley and others said more studies of those passing through hospitals are needed to be able to zero in on what leads to gun violence.
All agreed it is a multi-faceted problem that needs a broad approach. Schools need to teach conflict resolution at younger ages. Families need to stress safety at home.
Michael Rebock, chief of the hospital’s trauma program, said: “We need to educate physicians and trauma centers to work to take the lead in this. But it comes down to financing (research).”
Theodore Ruza, a Beaumont psychiatrist, said: “If you don’t ask questions, people aren’t going to tell you.”
“Unfortunately, we see victims when it’s too late,” said Dr. Sanford Vieder, chief of Beaumont’s emergency services. “We need to try and educate people that the presence of guns increase the likelihood someone is going to get harmed – child or adult. Young adults are lacking skill sets to resolve problems.”
Physicians agreed that conflict resolution and role-playing on domestic violence and bullying situations should be attempted at young ages, preferably when children are in elementary school.
Rebock added that “by the time they are 16, they are out of this and out of control. They aren’t part of a captive audience anymore.”
“It starts in the home and we’ve done education programs for years,” said Ruza. “The bottom line is you have to get parents or adults on track with education. You have to get the family involved.”
Dwyer said the county gun lock program has been broadened by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Novi and West Bloomfield to the point where officers deliver gun locks to those who request them, rather than wait for them to drive to the police station and pick them up.