Dr. Janis M Orlowski of MedStar Washington Hospital Center pleads with Americans to put her trauma center ‘out of business’
The most senior clinician at a hospital that treated victims of the Washington navy yard shooting has become a rallying point for gun campaigners, calling on Americans to eradicate the “evil in our society” that led to the tragedy.
“I would like you to put my trauma center out of business,” Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told reporters in the aftermath of the massacre. “I would like to not be an expert on gunshots. Let’s get rid of this. This is not America.”
In an emotional address to the cameras, she added: “We just cannot have, you know, one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed. We’ve got to figure this out. We’ve got to be able to help each other.”
In follow up comments on Tuesday, Orlowski said her plea had been a spontaneous reaction after she observed how similar the shooting injuries had been to victims of routine gun crime in Washington.
“I have to say it was direct from my heart,” she said in a series of television interviews. “I must have poked the underbelly because I have gotten quite a few comments and phone calls and e-mails and tweets about it.”
Nevertheless, in Congress, hopes of federal legislation on guns remain as distant as ever, despite Monday’s mass shooting occurring less than two miles from the steps of the Capitol.
Senate staffers who were involved in failed reform efforts in April, following the Newtown school shooting in December, told the Guardian they were a sceptical about the chances of any fresh attempt in the wake of the navy yard shooting, in which 13 people, including the gunman, were killed.
“The senator continues to talk to his colleagues but until we get those five votes that were missing, nothing is going to move,” said Jonathan Kott, communications director for the Democrat Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, who co-sponsored a bill that was backed by 55 senators but fell short of the 60 needed to avoid a filibuster.
The California senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, was one of the few leading politicians to directly link gun control efforts with the navy yard shooting, which she said was “one more event to add to the litany of massacres”.
“Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country,” Feinstein said, in a statement. “We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”
But even gun control advocates on Capitol Hill are sceptical that the latest shooting will shift opposition among many Republicans and a handful of Democrats from states with strong pro-gun lobbies.
“I am not really sure what is going to get Congress to act,” said congresswoman Donna Edwards, from Maryland. She told MSNBC: “When 90% of Americans are in favour of background checks but Congress cannot do it because they’re under the throes of the gun lobby, something really stinks in America.”
Campaigners vowed to keep up the pressure, but despite a shooting of more than four people taking place, on average, once every two weeks since 2006, political positions on either side of the debate appear entrenched.
“While it is too early to know what policies might have prevented this latest tragedy, we do know that policies that present a real opportunity to save lives sit stalled in Congress, policies that could prevent many of the dozens of deaths that result every day from gun violence,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign. “As long as our leaders in Congress ignore the will of the people and do not listen to those voices, we will hold them accountable. We hope Congress will listen to the voice of the people and take up legislation that will create a safer America.”
The Newtown Action Alliance will hold a fresh rally in Washington on Thursday, but a separate event planned for Tuesday, to coincide with a scheduled committee hearing debating Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” legislation, was postponed because of the navy yard attack.
It is unclear whether the White House is willing to expend any more of its dwindling political capital in backing fresh legislative attempts, having been rebuffed in the Senate in April. President Obama lamented “yet another mass shooting” during initial comments on Monday, but then continued with a planned event to discuss the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis.
Obama’s press spokesman, Jay Carney, insisted that the White House remains committed to reform, though he gave little initial indication of any fresh push for action in Congress.
“What is true is certainly that the president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” said Carney on Monday. “And, obviously, he continues to support measures taken by Congress – [measures] that could be taken by Congress to reduce gun violence in a common-sense way, like improving our background check system.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
Watch Dr. Janis Orlowski’s Today Show interview below: