Cook County Board president wants gun violence treated as a health issue

By Frederick H. Lowe

Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County, Il. Board of Commissioners, has endorsed the American Medical Association’s position calling for gun violence to be treated as a health issue, legislation Congress has blocked at the insistence of the National Rifle Association.

Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners
Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners

“Gun violence, the root cause that leads to such violence and the easy availability of weapons are issues that we all need to confront in a multifaceted way as this is more than just an issue of policing alone,” Preckwinkle said during a news conference at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, Cook County’s largest city. “We must consider all of the contributing factors, human and resource-related, that fuel this crisis. We are pleased that the American Medical Association is lending its influential voice to this issue.”

The AMA called for gun violence to be treated as a health issue in the wake of June 12 massacre at an Orlando, Fla., Gay club. The Chicago-based AMA also noted that 6,000 people have been shot to death in the U.S. so far this year.

The American Medical Association said its House of Delegates will lobby Congress to overturn legislation that for 20 years has prohibited the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence.

Congress rejects the idea

Last year, following the massacre of nine people during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee quietly rejected an amendment that would have allowed the CDC to study the underlying causes of gun violence.

Dr. Steven J. Stack, president of the AMA, said if allowed, the CDC’s research would “help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm- related deaths and injuries.”

But John Boehner, then Speaker of House of Representatives, said that’s not the CDC’s role (Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has since resigned from Congress.)

“The CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect public health. I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease,” Boehner said at the time.  “Guns don’t kill people—people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.”

The National Rifle Association has accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of trying to promote gun control through science


Dr. Fred Rivara, a professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Washington, said the National Rifle Association has accused the CDC of trying to use science to promote gun control.  The NRA through its effective lobbying has blocked the CDC from conducting research, said Dr. Rivara, who has been involved in injury research 30 years.

Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System, said, “Empowering the CDC to conduct meaningful research on gun violence is key to addressing this crisis effectively.” Dr. Shannon participated in the news conference with President Preckwinkle.

Chicago has become the nation’s capital for gun violence. During Sunday evening and Monday morning broadcasts, the city’s television stations tally the number of people who either have been shot and killed or shot and wounded over the weekend.

The stories usually lead with, “A South Side man was shot to death….”

So far this year, the Cook County Medical Examiner has recorded 366 homicides; 322 or 88% of them were caused by guns.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners is the county’s governing board.



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