In advance of an event entitled “Dialogue about Civic Engagement with President Price" I sent a letter expressing my frustration regarding gun violence on campuses. It was clear from his response at this meeting that President Price read the letter, agrees that guns are a public health crisis and was frustrated over inaction, but beyond this he had no clear vision about how to proceed other than improving awareness of Duke's active shooter plan.  

In deference to President Price I encourage everyone to review the content of the active shooter video from Kyle Cavanaugh, our VP for Administration. Unfortunately, unless made to do by someone like your RA, my guess is that very few of you has viewed it, much less discussed it. The ironic thing is that this will be the only thing that we will be discussing if an active shooter event occurs in the community.  

By now we all know the post mass shooting response: anger; a call for action; and meaningless offerings of thoughts and prayers—all of which soon dissipates like heat from a spent high capacity magazine. The problem is that we keep getting duped by the notion that this is a Second Amendment issue rather than what is really is: the protection of an industry by the gun lobby and by politicians that are bought off to make it nearly impossible to even study the impact of guns on Americans. But some have been able to circumvent this roadblock.  

Here's a tidbit for you to consider from CNN (that my father lovingly referred to as Communist Network News). "Between 2006 and 2014, the costs and financial burden of firearm injuries reached a total of $6.61 billion—and that was just for initial hospitalizations."

This is very close to the $7 billion 2017 budget of the NSF. 

If a batch of tainted spinach was causing this level of carnage the whole industry would be shut down until the source was identified. The source would be eliminated and the people producing, processing and marketing the product would be liable to prosecution.  Of course it would never get beyond the first outbreak or two of food poisoning before the problem was solved.  

So why don't guns get the "spinach treatment"? The answer is not the Second Amendment. The answer is that the Second Amendment provides cover for an industry with an annual revenue of $13.5 billion—essentially the same as the 2017 budget for all NIH research grants.

Herein also lies the solution: hit 'em in the pocketbook!

The brave students from Parkland, Florida, have given us an opening that has been followed by several brave companies that have publicly broken ties with the NRA. Duke, through its endowment and employee retirement plans has tremendous economic impact. It is time for Duke to publicly divest from any company or parent company that in whole or in part manufactures and/or markets weapons of war to the public. This would send a loud message that would embolden others to act.

Think about. 

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

William Reichert, PhD

Pilkington Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Global Health

Member, Faculty Advisory Board

Duke Office for Civic Engagement