A year ago I wondered whether someone close to me would die of COVID-19. I heard of friends of friends taken by this disease, but no one close. And then, last September, a beloved uncle died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital.

We face another public health epidemic: gun violence. I wonder whether someone close to me will die of a gunshot. Or should I ask: How long will it be? Gun violence can be treated as a public health problem. Background checks and a ban on assault weapons would be a good starting place.

To those who object that their right to bear arms is more sacred than others’ right to life, I’ll state the obvious: those who wrote the Second Amendment were not anticipating military assault weapons in the hands of civilians. And I am not suggesting a ban on guns.

Nicholas Kristof writes: “We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause.” Let’s do the same with guns.