I was trying to think of a medical story about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today we officially celebrate his birthday: January 15, 1929.

Last year I considered the matter of donating blood, one of the many ways you might honor the leader’s commitment to a more civil and cooperative society.

MLK with RFK, both died of gunshot wounds (JFK Library, via Wikimedia Commons)

MLK and RFK, both killed by gunshot wounds (image from JFK Library, via Wiki Commons)

This year I’m struck by the fact that he died at the age of 39. On April 4, 1968, a rifle-wielding criminal in Memphis inflicted a lethal gunshot wound to King’s head and neck.

The recent Arizona shootings serve as a grim reminder of those tumultuous, bloody events. According to MSNBC, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, said: “When incidents occur like what we saw in Arizona, it shows us how much work we must do to create the kind of nation where nonviolence is embraced.”

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is healing in a Tucson ICU, after extensive neurosurgery and other life-sustaining procedures. This morning her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, said on Twitter:

@ShuttleCDRKelly Mark Kelly
As my wonderful wife @Rep_Giffords continues to make progress, let us all pause and reflect on this MLK day.
11 hours ago

In honor of the day, and for the future, I wish that more physicians would speak out in favor of stricter gun control laws. Firearms present a public health issue in the U.S. According to the CDC, over 12,000 Americans die each year from homicide involving firearms. The number of non-fatal gunshot wounds requiring hospital care approximates 48,000 per year.


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