Dr. George Benjamin says he feels like “an endangered species.” Each day in the news, there is a new story about another person of color shot down by gun violence. Whether it was justified or not, gun violence is taking the lives of men of color disproportionately.
Benjamin is the executive director of the American Public Health Association. He has a message for the nation’s top public health official, Dr. Thomas Frieden. Dr. Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control. Speak out against gun violence.
Dr. Tom Frieden has tweeted and talked about everything from Obesity, polio in Pakistan, Ebola, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and flu shots. There isn’t a health issue that Frieden hasn’t spoken about, except the second biggest killer of young people in the United States.
It isn’t because the CDC doesn’t research violence and injuries. They have a whole division dedicated to it. The Division of Injury Prevention and Control examines the tens of thousands of American lives lost every year to violence. Its causes can range from gang violence to domestic violence.
Why does Frieden stay silent?
Supporters of Frieden staying silent say that it is a safe move. A lot of powerful members of Congress align themselves with the National Rifle Association. If he speaks out against them, Congress may pull funding.
It isn’t an empty threat. It has happened before. Congress has taken away almost all funding for gun research. In the 1990s, a small group of legislatures threatened to take away funding for the Division of Injury Prevention and Control.
Dr. Benjamin wants Frieden to call their bluff. Someone in such a position of power has what it takes to make changes. “It’s time to speak up. The CDC is a trusted organization, and the white coat is a very powerful tool.”
Others who support Benjamin believe that if Frieden broke his silence, he could encourage change in legislation. They could pass laws and regulations to decrease gun violence. Some think that Congress could even reestablish funding that was taken away 20 years ago.
Each side holds merit. Staying silent helps Frieden keep his funding and saying something might cause funding to be cut. Also, speaking up could force change in legislation and increase funding. It could go either way. Frieden does hold a seat of power and what he does can change the view of many on gun violence.