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CDC Director: U.S. Gun Problem Is Much Bigger than We Are Hearing About

‘Something has to be done about that’
By Grabien Staff

COHEN: “This is actually a stunning moment, that a director of the CDC is even talking about this issue, is even using the word ‘guns’. It hasn’t happened in years and years.”
WALENSKY: “Every day we turn on the news and there are more young people dying. I swore to the President and to this country that I would protect your health. This is clearly one of those moments, one of those issues that is harming America’s health.”
COHEN: “But there’s a reason why your predecessors didn’t address it.”
WALENSKY: “Perhaps.”
COHEN (voice-over): “We’re used to hearing Dr. Rochelle Walensky talk about the Covid-19 pandemic.”
WALENSKY: “Vaccine safety is a top priority.”
COHEN (voice-over): “This is her first interview on America’s epidemic on gun violence.”
COHEN: “One recent weekend in Chicago, we had 74 people shot. That same weekend, a party in Florida, five teenagers shot. That same weekend, a man in New York City, in Times Square, shot in the back. And the list goes on and on, week after week after week. Can anything be done about this?”
WALENSKY: “Something has to be done about this. So, 40,000 firearm-related deaths a year. 120,000 serious firearm-related injuries per year. The scope of the problem is just bigger than we’re even hearing about and when your heart wrenches every day you turn on the news. You’re only hearing the tip of the iceberg.”
COHEN: “When you wake up on a Monday morning and you hear all the reports of the children who were shot the previous weekend, as CDC director, what does that feel like to you?”
WALENSKY: “That’s heavy. It hurts. It hurt before I was CDC director. I think any American citizen that turns on the news just can’t fathom another one of these mass violence issues.”
COHEN (voice-over): “Dr. Walensky’s strategy: restart the gun research.”
WALENSKY: “My job is to understand and evaluate the problem, to understand the scope of the problem, to understand why this happens and what are the things that can make it better, to research that, to scale that up, to evaluate it and to make sure we can integrate it into communities. We have a lot of work to do in every single one of those areas because we haven’t done a lot of work as a nation in almost any of them.”
COHEN (voice-over): “And this time she wants the CDC to find common ground with gun owners.”
WALENSKY: “Let’s agree we don’t want people to die. Let’s just agree there. What can we do to stop people from dying?”
COHEN (voice-over): “She wants to allay gun owners’ ears.”
WALENSKY: “Generally the word ‘gun,’ for those who are worried about research in this area, is followed by the word ‘control’. That’s not what I want to do here. I’m not here about gun control. I’m here about preventing gun violence and gun death.”
COHEN (voice-over): “And she wants to involve gun owners in the CDC research to save lives.
COHEN: “If a gun owner said to you, ‘Dr. Walensky, I’m afraid you want to take away my gun?’”
WALENSKY: “And my answer to that is, come be part of the solution. Come to the table. Join us in the conversation. I don’t want you to feel that way. Right? I want you to teach me what you have done to make your gun safe. And then I want you to teach everybody else.”
COHEN (voice-over): “Dr. Walensky’s plan has brought her here to Vermont to help solve this problem. According to a 2015 study, in the United States an estimated 4.6 million children lived with a loaded and unlocked gun. That number has likely increased dramatically since then. These children in Vermont are learning how to shoot guns and how to store them safely. Dr. Chris Barsoti, a gun owner and an emergency room physician teaches this 4H community program.”
BARSOTI: “How do we keep your guns here at 4H? How are they stored?”
COHEN (voice-over): “By funding this program and studying what they do, and repeating it across the country, Dr. Walensky hopes to prevent accidental gun deaths among children.”
WALENSKY: “CDC is here, we’re here because today you’re our teachers. We want to learn from you.”
COHEN (voice-over): “The CDC is also funding this project at gun shops to help put a stop to gun suicides.”
CLARK: “It’s a poster that talks about how gun owners can help, different signs to look for.”
COHEN (voice-over): “Dr. Barsoti knows that Dr. Walensky will get pushback.”
COHEN: “When gun owners hear that the federal government, the CDC wants to reduce gun violence. What do they hear?”
BARSOTI: “I think at the end of the day they’re worried about gun confiscation.”
COHEN: “Confiscation?”
BARSOTI: “Confiscation. And barriers to access, to purchasing and owning firearms.”
COHEN (voice-over): “CNN reached out to NRA to ask if they were willing to work with Dr. Walensky and they did not respond. But Dr. Walensky stands firm.”
COHEN: “Are you worried that even just saying the word ‘guns’ or even talking about firearms, that you’re going to get a whole sector of the United States just really angry?”
WALENSKY: “Of course.”

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