• The Aftermath of Gun Violence: Unconditional Love and Connection

    Marcy L. Kamen, MD
    Posted on December 5, 2022

    The plague of gun violence our nation faces recently struck very close to home for me and my family. The Highland Park Independence Day parade is an annual tradition for my family where we celebrate the birthday of my sister, who was born on the Fourth of July. We sat on the curb in front of our favorite café, a few feet from a friend who is no longer with us. Sitting in front of my dad, resting in his arms, and facing the procession of the parade, we were reminiscing with my sister and singing “It’s A Grand Old Flag.” The next moment, shots were fired. A waterfall of bullets cascaded directly over me and my family. I sat among those people who died, and I did not get shot. But my father was wounded; the bullet missed his heart by inches but miraculously did not kill him. He is alive and well and recovering. Our family tradition, like many other family traditions, was changed forever.

    As a survivor living with this horrible experience, I feel a responsibility to engage in this world around me with some new efforts. At the memorial in Highland Park, I wrote a note to the grieving families: “From one who was too close for comfort, wrapping you in love.” Today I am working hard on believing that we, as family doctors and fellow human beings, must move forward together in hope and faith in our future. I believe we must strive to effect change. We need to love each other unconditionally, no matter our differences. Like parents who love their children unconditionally, we as family physicians need to listen and learn from our own children and patients alike, to protect and to guide them so that they too can have hope for a brighter future and so that we do not let them fall to the despair and darkness of mental illness.

    What we experienced personally in Highland Park, Illinois, is, tragically, one of a string of recent mass shootings, including recent shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and massacres at an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. Mass shootings are happening across our country with increasing frequency and lethality with record-high homicide and suicide rates. In 2018, AFP published an editorial on preventing gun violence and the role of family physicians as the AAFP issued a “Call to Action” from a coalition of nine organizations advocating for universal background searches, screening and educating patients about gun safety, improved access to mental health care that raises awareness and reduces stigma, reporting laws that honor confidentiality while retaining these patients for ongoing mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment, common sense restrictions on guns for civilian use, and more sponsored research to inform evidence-based policies.

    As family physicians, we have a respected voice and well-earned relationships and trust with our communities. We can start by listening, sharing, and engaging each other more and rise to the AAFP’s Call to Action with renewed vigor for our patients, our communities, and across our country.

    —Dr. Kamen is a faculty member at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and practices at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois.

    The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Academy of Family Physicians or its journals. This service is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.