I’ve got a confession to make. I own stock in a firearms maker.
Seems ironic that someone like myself — a physician has cared for countless victims of gun violence and someone who advocates for evidence-based policies to avert gun deaths — would not only own guns himself but also be a stockholder of a company that manufactures them.
Let me explain how this happened. When I first got out of residency, I took a job as an independent contractor with one of those contract management groups. At the advice of my financial planner, I opened a SEP IRA wherein I could buy and trade individual stocks. It was fun! I tried to pick good companies that delivered solid returns. One of which just happened to be a firearms manufacturer.
Two months after I purchased that stock, a madman killed 26 teachers and children in Sandy Hook, CT.
Since that time a racist killed nine people attending a Bible Study in South Carolina.
A homophobic ISIS wannabe killed partiers at a nightclub in Orlando.
A “lone wolf” mowed down concert goers in Las Vegas.
And a murderous teenager recently took the lives of 17 high schoolers and teachers in Parkland, Florida.
By my calculations, in the time since I bought that stock over 71,000 have died due to gun violence and almost twice as many have committed suicide with firearms. I just can’t do it anymore. Enough is enough.
I cannot legitimately argue for reasonable limits on firearms while enabling organizations like the NRA to push the agenda of gun manufacturers. I cannot listen to the voices of a new generation of advocates while cashing in the dividends of a company that will not even consider that their product is a health hazard in today’s society.
As a teenager, I remember the end to apartheid in South Africa and how the vehement objection of black South Africans like Nelson Mandela was insufficient to end it. We cannot expect the moms that demand action and the children who are pleading for their lives to win the war on gun violence without divestiture and economic sanctions on the entities responsible for this uniquely American epidemic. Enough is enough.
I have nothing against gun owners. I am one. I know we can respect the Second Amendment while simultaneously securing weapons from the hands of those who would wish to do others harm.
We already protect the right to vote while requiring registration of the voter. In Texas, we enforce photo ID on election day. Why can we not do the same with firearms? Why can’t we ask that everyone who wants to buy a gun pass a background check (even at gun shows and other person to person sales)? Why can’t we ask that someone who wants to own firearms obtain a permit affirming their ability to do so? Why can’t we prevent every individual who has demonstrated violent tendencies — stalkers and domestic abusers alike — from accessing deadly weapons?
But, we can.
It’s time to say enough is enough to the NRA and gun manufacturers who will not support reasonable means to curb the epidemic of gun violence sweeping our country.
In the past weeks days, we have seen businesses end discount programs with the NRA. We have seen gun retailers offering to implement age restrictions and refusing to sell modern sporting rifles similar to the AR-15. Corporations are starting to say enough.
With the passage of a bill changing the age for purchase of long guns, Florida has finally said enough.
As we have seen with other movements for justice, people and politicians listened only when corporations and the rest of the world began to divest.
It’s time to divest from those who stand in the way of progress, from those who would prefer to see Americans murdered for the sake of profits, from those who would allow thousands to die from self-inflicted wounds by opposing common sense, evidence-based gun legislation.
So today, I divested. And to all those who want to see an end to this uniquely American epidemic, if you own the manufacturers, the retailers, or other businesses supporting the firearm industry, I hope you divest too.
Cedric Dark is founder and executive editor, Policy Prescriptions.
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