Public comments recently delivered at a Village of Oak Park Board of Trustees meeting:

I am Rev. Michael Hayes, and I am here in my capacity as a staff chaplain of the Department of Spiritual Care at Loyola University Medical Center, a position it has been my pleasure to hold for over 9½ years.

As one who provides care to gunshot victims and their families, I can tell you that the staff of our Emergency Medicine and Trauma teams celebrate whenever our efforts successfully help a patient survive from gunshot fire, and we cry when our efforts are in vain. When we cannot save someone, the pain is palpable and the futility of this meaningless loss of life leaves us feeling hollow inside.

For too long, we have waited for lasting, common-sense policies that would help us stem the tide of this public health crisis in the community we love. We can wait no longer. For too many of our citizens, tomorrow is not guaranteed. There is no time to wait.

I remind everyone what we as caregivers do, and why we see this moment as an urgent one. Hospital caregivers support individuals and families through devastating loss every day. Gun violence attacks traumatize whole families with misery, anger, fear, shock, and life-altering stress, and it is unremitting in its regularity.

There is no denying that certain of our patients are law breakers. We care for them to the best of our ability while law enforcement waits for the proper time to take them into custody, but the gun violence epidemic we have in metropolitan Chicago robs from all, with impunity! We have also cared for innocent bystanders, for people whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time of the wrong outbreak of gunfire. Our mission is to care for every person who walks through our doors and to extend that same compassion to their families.

I urge the board of village trustees to have the courage to listen to the various voices of victims of gun violence. Listen, as we have, to the voice of the boy who discovered an unsecured handgun while playing at home with his little sister. They both were brought to our hospital. She went immediately to our Operating Room because she had been shot. He went to our Emergency Department because the powerful recoil of the weapon struck him in his face. She did not survive her injury. He survived his.

But have the courage to listen to his words when he asked his doctors at discharge, “Will my sister be OK?”

If by passing a measure requiring that all firearms be secured with gun locks, you could save that young girl’s life, would you save it?

Mandatory gun locks and gun buyback programs are effective tools that make common sense. Gun locks save lives because they eliminate accidental discharges — accidental discharges like the one that happened when a friend of my uncle discovered his unsecured service revolver in the dining room buffet as they were setting the table for dinner. She spun around on her heels and joked, “Stick ’em up!’ and accidentally killed my uncle.

Imagine the irony: He had survived the Korean War only to be killed by his own service revolver after coming back home!

Imagine the thousands of tragic regrets she must have had over that one innocent joke. If, with one stroke of a pen, you could make sure that every soldier’s pistol in Oak Park was rendered inoperable without a key to release its gun lock, would you secure them?

If you could make sure that families of deceased soldiers, families of deceased police officers or deceased hunters had an easy and familiar buyback program for taking their unwanted firearms out of circulation, would you create it?

The time to act is now. These common-sense policies will save lives from Day One.

Let’s save lives in the village of Oak Park now!

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