Dr. Jack Mayer: Kids lead the way on gun safety

This week’s writer is Middlebury pediatrician and author Dr. Jack Mayer.
It seems as if our kids are the grown-ups in the room when it comes to gun safety, universal background checks, and stronger gun laws in Vermont. This Saturday, March 24, is the March for Our Lives all across the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of people will march in Washington, D.C., in Middlebury, Montpelier, Rutland, all across the U.S. led by our courageous, articulate young people, pleading with us, “Enough is Enough!”
As a pediatrician, I am an advocate for children and young people. I’ve been there when they were born, helpless and needing protection and nurturing. I’ve cared for them, advised their parents, watched them grow and mature into the responsible citizens of our future. And I think we’ve taught them well, because now they are acting like adults — confronting our myopic inability to deal with gun violence in their communities and in their schools.
One thing I have learned over my years of pediatric practice — chronic stress, fear and anxiety are toxic. Our bodies produce stress hormones and neurotransmitters that make us ready for “fight or flight.” Developing brains are uniquely susceptible to the deforming effects of these chemicals and hormones. When young brains marinate in these chemicals our children’s brains are damaged. Chronic stress sets the emotional stage for depression, anxiety, and difficulties in attending, modulating behavior, and social relationships.
American children uniquely worry about school safety because of the ready availability of guns to criminals and dangerous people who should not have access to them. America has more guns per capita than any county on Earth and we suffer the highest toll of deaths, injuries and suicides from guns.
I could list the numbers, but numbers don’t bleed. Right now, 17 dead in Florida may be the statistic that matters, because this massacre could be the tipping point, the straw that breaks the NRA camel’s back. And we have our young people to thank.
Gun violence and murders are a public health emergency. Gov. Scott, a hunter, a Republican, has taken a thoughtful and courageous stand for gun safety and stronger gun laws like universal background checks.
This is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about our kids’ safety, about their very lives. Show up this Saturday at noon on The Green in Middlebury. Stand with your kids, stand for your kids. What could be more clear, more sensible, more responsible that those three words we hear so forcefully and articulately from our young people — “Enough is Enough!”

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