Columnist Joanna Buoniconti: Why are guns easier to get than medical equipment?

Joanna Buoniconti

Joanna Buoniconti CONTRIBUTED


Published: 02-05-2024 4:43 PM

Modified: 02-06-2024 10:51 AM

Since we are now well into 2024, I want to take a moment to address an issue that seems to keep cropping up no matter what year we’re in — school shootings and the need for stricter gun laws.

I know this is a bold statement with which to start an article, especially for me, considering that I don’t tend to be vocal about political issues. But when I saw the news about the school shooting Jan. 4 in Perry, Iowa, I frankly had had enough and decided it was time for me to speak out.

I want to start by asking you, my readers, a question: Why are guns more easily accessible to minors and the mentally ill than lifesaving medical equipment?

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, there were 346 school shootings in 2023. The article states that last year had the highest number of school shootings that this country has seen since 1966 as it essentially averaged a shooting each day of the year. A report from the K-12 Dive says that in these 346 school shootings, 227 children were injured or killed. The K-12 Dive article also explains that since the 1970s, 40% of school shooters have been students.

As to the exact number of casualties, some sites said 57, while others said 20. Having never researched this topic before, I found this fact alone to be horrific. As if it’s not horrifying enough that children are being killed for merely going to school — a place where they are presumably supposed to be safe — we don’t even know, for certain, how many children’s lives have been taken far too soon. Because school shootings have become so commonplace to the public, these children’s deaths are just another statistic rather than actual children who laughed and cried and had hopes and dreams.

I wanted to discuss this issue in this column because I realized that, like so many other people my age who have grown up watching tragedy after tragedy play out before our eyes, I have become numb to them, in part because it’s dangerous to feel so deeply in a society where these tragedies keep happening and nothing is done to help prevent them.

Another reason to become numb is that so many other things threaten our individual lives and require our pressing attention.

Throughout my childhood, my own life was repeatedly threatened, even though I wasn’t impacted by a school shooting. In my case, it came from my insurance denying lifesaving medications and equipment.

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I spent much of my early childhood in and out of the Intensive Care Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, due to having contracted RSV and pneumonia from being around other children my age. Catching these illnesses was catastrophic for my fragile lungs and would land me in the hospital for upward of a month at a time. My parents found out there was a medication for RSV that would protect me from catching that season’s specific strain. But this medication had only been prescribed for babies, not for children or young adults with fragile respiratory systems.

Consequently, my insurance company put up a big fuss about approving the medication each year up until I was about 18, even though the $15,000 cost of it was a pittance compared to my being hospitalized and put on a ventilator. And so for many years throughout my childhood, my mom, who is a physical therapist, had to fight tooth and nail for me to receive the medication. Eventually, she got them to rule in her favor, but it was a yearly battle.

My mom’s and my battles with my insurance company weren’t limited to medications, but included access to medical equipment as well. Most recently, my insurance company denied the approval of a second suction machine. This machine, in particular, means life and death for me because I have an incredibly weak swallow and can’t manage my saliva while lying down. My mom and I know from experience that having only one machine is incredibly unsafe because these machines, like any other, can go down at the drop of a hat.

Therefore, it’s understandable why we would want to have a backup machine when we’re dealing with something as precious as my airway. But, to a money-hungry insurance company, that cost is unacceptable.

And there’s no way to get a suction machine other than through a medical supplier because, unfortunately, Amazon and black market dealers don’t sell them.

I may be going out on a limb here by saying this to all of you, but I think I know my readers well enough to know that you agree with me about how seriously messed up our society is if it’s easier to get access to assault rifles than it is to get insurance to approve medications or medical equipment.

And I, for one, am no longer content to sit on the sidelines and say nothing.

Gazette columnist Joanna Buoniconti is a freelance writer and editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s at Emerson College. She can be reached at