By Diane McLaughlin, RN
MNA Member, Retired
We live in a “toxic” (i.e. sick) society, according to Dr. Chris Johnson, MD, Emergency Physician with Allina Health Minneapolis. Johnson spoke this fall Protect Minnesota and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health put on the Public Health Conference on Gun Violence Protection. The Minnesota Association Board of Directors helped sponsor the event, and three MNA members of the Governmental Affairs Commission attended.
Johnson said we can see the evidence of a toxic society by: gun violence, including domestic and mass shootings; child poverty (1 in 5 children live in poverty); teen pregnancy rates; opioid deaths and drug abuse as 80 percent of the world’s supply comes to the US; and a lack of social mobility.
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly toxic society,” Johnson said.
The US has approximately five percent of the world’s population and 50 percent of privately owned guns (obviously many US owners have multiple guns). The number of lethal police shootings and deaths is 990 per year, and more police die in US by gunfire than in any other country. Domestic violence calls being the most dangerous.
Johnson further explained “young male syndrome” is fueling the situation. He named surging testosterone, attempts to gain status in their group, dominance, and competition for females (sex drive) as symptoms. Meanwhile, security is not enhanced (by guns) in a sick society, which begs the question,”what makes us safer?” He cited four things: universal health care including mental health services and support, better education for adults and children, good jobs and adequate pay, and safe and affordable housing. We need to remember that just as human beings are wired for aggression, they are also prone to cooperation to survive. This tells us change is possible.
We also heard from the Battered Women’s Justice Project in Minneapolis. We learned of domestic violence prevention efforts that revolve around state, local, and tribal resources. There is no federal authority for the surrender of firearms and only protocols at the state and local level. Studies do show correlation in a drop of partner homicide with guns and total intimate partner homicide.