“I don’t believe that U.S. legislators have the courage to take on gun control,” said Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, in her blog, Monday Morning. “The result, tragically, is that we will cover this ground again and again – and that should not happen in a civilized country.” In addition to those recent comments after the murders in Orlando, Dean Rimer – “too many times,” she would say, has expressed grief and outrage about gun violence in the U.S. and about the need to tackle the problem as a public health issue.
“I grew up at a time when leaders I revered, including John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, were murdered with firearms. Over and over again, we’ve watched more public tragedies unfold,” she wrote in December 2015, in response to the San Bernadino killings. “The potential of senseless violence disrupts everyday life in unpredictable ways,” she wrote in November 2015, in response to the assaults in Paris. “Of course, one assumes that is the goal of the perpetrators – to put us on notice that we are not safe.”
In response to the killings in a Charleston church in June 2015, she wrote, “Hate and guns are a fatal combination … Enough! Enough of guns, hate and extreme racism. Will we continue to be outraged, horrified and disgusted by these events, and yet not act to restrict access to guns?”
After the death of Trayvon Martin, she wrote in July 2013, “President Obama said, ‘That could have been me 35 years ago.’ What can we learn from Mr. Martin’s death and the President’s words? How do we learn not to judge a person by his or her skin color and other externalities? In public health, where we are so committed to overcoming health disparities, can we walk in someone else’s shoes to feel what it would be like to live that person’s life? We need to do that.”
In arguing against N.C. state legislation that allows guns on college campuses, Dean Rimer wrote, in June 2013, that “public health is first about prevention. The best way to prevent gun violence is not to have guns on our premises.”
“Deaths from guns are as preventable as deaths from tobacco use,” she said after the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary. “It took courage and tenacity for leaders to stand up to big tobacco. It will take even more leadership to resist the temptation to fall back on platitudes about the rights of Americans to bear arms. Why should anyone have the right to walk into a school, movie theatre or mall” – or now, a nightclub – “with an AR-15, and begin shooting?”