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Local doctor breaks down how to prevent the next Uvalde

“Yes, policies make a difference, but if we stick only on policy, we are missing the bigger picture."

Part of a large makeshift memorial to the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, where 19 students and two teachers were killed, in Uvalde, Texas on June 3H. Ivan Pierre Aguirre/The New York Times

A local doctor says preventing future mass shootings isn’t as simple as passing one law or changing the background check process for buying guns.

Really, it is a combination of policy changes, practice updates, and community efforts, according to Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and associate dean at the Brown University School of Public Health.

Ranney, who has been leading national efforts to conduct gun safety research and advocating for more federal funding for years, broke down the host of efforts that can be made, both policy related and not, to help decrease deaths from firearms on a May 27 episode of Faust Files on MedPage Today, hosted by Dr. Jeremy Faust, a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. S.E. Cupp, a CNN political commentator, also participated in the discussion.


“There are things that we know work for violence prevention,” Ranney said. “There are things that we know work for suicide prevention. And there are some things that we know work for firearm violence and suicide prevention. There’s a large range that go from policy to very much non-policy solutions.”

From a policy and practice standpoint, Ranney said stronger laws restricting access to firearms for people with charges of domestic violence, more thorough checks of someone’s history before purchasing, and “red flag” laws that allow judges to temporarily suspend a person’s gun license are changes that could help prevent future shootings. 

But she also highlighted steps such as safe storage practices, community interventions, violence prevention programs, and programs like boys and girls clubs, as ways to “identify and deflect the risk” of mass shootings.

“Yes, policies make a difference, but if we stick only on policy, we are missing the bigger picture,” Ranney said. 

Discussions that would result in change need to be done in partnership between firearm owners and non-firearm owners, Ranney said. 

“I have actually left the policy conversation aside largely because, honestly right now, it feels pointless. Right? It creates these 10% of folks on either side who are utterly extreme,” Ranney said. “People that either say, ‘Oh, the answer is let’s arm every teacher,’ which is baloney, or people who say, ‘I’m going to go and we’re going to take away every gun,’ which is also baloney. And it leaves the 80% in the middle feeling like there is nothing that they can do.” 


S.E. Cupp, who hosts a political panel show and has reported on a number of mass shootings, said having conversation with “good actors who want to talk and want to talk facts”  has been the most productive for her. 

“Just reminding us all, we don’t all hate each other,” Cupp said. “There are actually more people – like Megan was saying, 80% of people are somewhere in the middle on all these issues. They’re not the far right. They’re not the far left. So having these conversations is helpful, hopeful. It reminds you of our shared humanity.”

Ranney said a key element is willingness to question data and look at it critically. She said some statistics are easy talking points people like to land on, but they need to be in context. 

“It is about showing up day after day and knowing that every single day it’s human nature to call into question that I’m not saying the same thing and I’m giving them space to think differently, but they’re also giving me space to think differently,” Ranney said.

The doctor called on many people to start conversations about gun safety — everyone from a pediatrician talking about safe storage, to a psychiatrist discussing the intersection of mental health and guns to an emergency room doctor talking about reducing recurring violence. 


“There is no single solution for any health problem,” Ranney said. “There is no single solution for firearm injury in this country. That doesn’t absolve us from taking all the actions that make a difference.”


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