This morning I attended my fifth-grader’s graduation. The emotion of the moment was compounded by the deep sadness that I have felt over the last few weeks. It has been an exceedingly difficult time for our nation.
On May 14, an individual armed with a rifle murdered ten people in a Buffalo supermarket because of the color of their skin. Two days ago, an 18-year-old armed with a rifle attacked an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and killed nineteen young children and two teachers.
In less than two weeks, in cities more than 1,700 miles apart, thirty-one families lost loved ones and will never be the same. As Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
In the coming days, the media and politicians will analyze every detail of these attacks. There will be calls for change, cries for unity and pledges of support and commitment to the families and communities impacted by the violence.
We know this will happen because we have seen it before. We saw it in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman High School, we saw it in 2017 at Texas First Baptist Church, we saw it in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School—we have seen it over and over again. Given the mental health crisis and the ongoing inflation pressure that families are facing, I fear we may see even more.
This perpetual cycle of gun violence creates the impression that nothing can be done. But I do not believe that is true. We need to support a two-pronged approach:
#1 We have to have access to mental health support, and parents and guardians must be built into the equation. We must address the mental health crisis among our youth.
#2 We need to enact rational gun laws. We can fight about the right to bear arms, or we can all agree that safe and responsible ownership needs to be addressed. Training, licensing, gun registries, safe storage and locking mechanisms that are unique to individual users all must be mandatory.
It is time to stop yelling at one another and start listening. Join me in calling upon industry leaders to pull together an expert panel to conduct an open and transparent process to move these issues forward.
My greatest wish is that I never have to write a note like this again. I know I will do all I can to make that a reality. I hope you will join me in this endeavor. In the meantime, hold your loved ones a little bit closer and watch out for each other.
Press Ganey has many associates across the state of New York and state of Texas, and my heartfelt condolences are with them, their communities and their loved ones, and everyone impacted by these unspeakable tragedies.
The coming months will be challenging. But we will get through them together and build a force for positive change along the way.
Patrick T. Ryan
Press Ganey Chairman and CEO