There is a saying, “Risk is where you stand.”

I suppose it means that when somebody may consider a situation or a proposal “risky,” somebody else thinks that same situation or proposal is tolerable or OK. When it comes to death by firearms in the United States, it is appallingly apparent that in 2022 an ordinary person minding their own business risks death and permanent injury by standing in the supermarket, the elementary school, the medical clinic, the graduation ceremony and the cemetery.

In previous years it has also been risky to be at a yoga studio, a sidewalk cafe, an outdoor music festival, an indoor concert, a movie theater, a workplace, a post office or many other types of schools, stores, religious services and parties. It is also risky to walk or drive down the road. 

How much risk can we stand? When it seems like every day there is a new report of a mass-casualty event caused by intentional firearm violence — we can’t help but think that one day, gun violence will end the life of someone we know.  

Last Wednesday, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, multiple news reports document that a disgruntled patient purchased an assault rifle and, on the same day, murdered four people, including the doctor who operated on him on May 19. The patient turned killer’s alleged complaint was that he was still in pain two weeks after his spine surgery.

Dr. Preston Phillips used to live in Seattle, where he continued his distinguished career after graduating from Harvard Medical School with awards and accolades and then completing residency at Yale and fellowships at Beth Israel and Boston Children’s in orthopedic surgery. He also earned advanced degrees in both organic chemistry and divinity. He was a member of a large orthopedic group located on the top floor of the Heath Building at 801 Broadway. He served as president of his professional association and was a member of the King County Medical Society.

I knew Dr. Phillips because my office was also in the same building. I would see him on the elevator and had referred patients to him for consultation. His education, skills and demeanor were impeccable. A steadfast and thoughtful surgeon, he died serving patients. Another physician, Dr. Stephanie Husen, clinic receptionist Amanda Glenn and patient William Love also died. I knew Dr. Phillips, and I know no one deserves to die because of firearm violence. 

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Taking a stand is taking a risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Firearm injuries are a serious public health problem. In 2020, there were 45,222 firearm-related deaths in the United States — that is about 124 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day.”

According to the CDC, in 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers. These deaths were preventable. The United States needs to enact common-sense firearm legislation, including banning assault weapons, strengthening background checks and encouraging safe firearm storage, to stop the suicides, the homicides and the massacres. 

Is taking a stand against firearm violence worth dying for? No — we take a stand against firearm violence to live! Because if we don’t take a stand against firearm violence, then it really won’t matter where we stand at all.