Two-time cancer conqueror Dorothy Leone-Glasser stood and walked three steps from the long, wooden bench. She shook my hand, her face freshly pressed and matted for the camera. The fact that she can walk at all is admirable. She had been confined to a wheelchair for years, battling systemic lupus and a laundry list of other ailments.
Leone-Glasser is the Executive Director of Advocates for Responsible Care (ARxC), a Georgia non-profit that works to give patients a voice so that they may have access to necessary medications and treatments. But today, we met for another reason: To discuss gun violence prevention from a different framework, namely, a public health framework specifically in Georgia.
My co-host, James Hunter, fast-walked throughout the grandiose Capitol building for a room to host the interview. We quickly found a fancy one on the top floor–the senate conference room.
We started the conversation with the basics.
“Gun violence is any violence that happens with a firearm that either injures or causes death to a person,” Leone-Glasser said.
Given the deadly nature of guns, according to that definition the mere presence of a firearm could inherently suggest there was violence; but what about earnest self-defense?
“No, the violence is not just around the gun, the violence is around the intention,” Leone-Glasser said, clarifying the organization’s focus on the research, study and development of the harm that may arise from gun-related incidents.
In short, all they want is to collect data.
“We’re looking for how this affects the individual that is either a victim of gun violence, or families and communities, and following it all the way through,” Leone-Glasser said.
“When you come into an emergency room from a gunshot wound, it’s not just what happens in the emergency room, the effect of that gunshot will last–sometimes for years–certainly for months. So if you carry the trail into their psychological, physical, community, societal and economic outcomes from a gunshot wound–we need to be looking at that, what is this costing our state in all of those areas,” she said.
She emphasizes the need for Georgians to examine data that’s specific to Georgia, and then analogizes what she envisions to the poison control department at the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). When children are poisoned and die from poisoning, the CDC records and notes these incidents.
“We have children in our state dying from gun violence–there is no department to go to, to gather those statistics!” Leone-Glasser said. For her and the coalition, it is paramount that they collect the correct data before even beginning to strategize a public policy plan.
“We want sensible gun owners to have their guns,” she said, firmly patting her jewelry-clad hand on the table, “What we don’t want is when it becomes violence perpetuated, injury, or death, we want to see how we could stop that.”
She also stops short of jumping to mental health as the first reason for gun violence. She believes there’s too much labeling going on, and that it isn’t good practice to assume.
For now, the coalition’s request is simple: for Georgia to have its own study committee to gather the facts most pertinent to its people, so that we may have all the stakeholders at the table to discuss possible, realistic solutions. Leone-Glasser thinks that with the study, using a public health framework, we will be able to get the information we desperately need.
Leone-Glasser wishes to zero in on what communities or factors have higher incidence of–or increases the likelihood of–gun violence, then broaden the application. “The safety has to be for everyone, no matter what your zip code is,” she said.
She has worked many years under the dome as a citizen advocate. “If we can give all the stakeholders the right information, by following, through a study committee, a public health framework on the seriousness and the risks of gun violence in Georgia, I know that our leaders… Our leaders will respond to that,” the healthcare advocate said.
Listen to the full conversation here: