In a “call to action” statement published today in the Annuals of Internal Medicine, seven physician professional societies, the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association jointly recommend several measures to address firearm-related injuries and deaths in the United States. These measures include universal background checks, restrictions on manufacture and sale of military-style assault weapons and elimination of “gag-laws” that prevent physicians from discussing gun ownership issues with their patients. The bar association’s Standing Committee on Gun Violence claims that none of these recommendations conflict with the Second Amendment.
More than 32,000 deaths and twice as many injuries each year are attributed to firearm-related accidents, homicides and suicides. This translates into 88 gun-related deaths in the U.S. each day and constitutes, the professional societies believe, a “major public health problem.” Additional recommendations include improved access to mental health service and adequate funding of federal agencies to research the causes and effects of gun violence on public health and safety.
“Our organizations support a public health approach to firearm-related violence and prevention of firearm injuries and deaths. Similar approaches have produced major achievements in the reduction of tobacco use, motor vehicle deaths (seat belts), and unintentional poisoning and can serve as models going forward.” — Stephen E. Weinberger, MD, American College of Physicians, et al.
The recommendations echo the White House’s plan to reduce gun violence, which was drafted in January 2013 as a response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The Congress failed to take any action on the issue. Several states did pass gun control legislation, the first being New York. New York’s SAFE Act requires background checks for all gun sales outside of sales between immediate family members. the law bans high-capacity magazines and requires health care professionals notify mental health officials if they believe a patient poses a threat.
The seven health professional organizations that joined in the statement include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Psychiatric Association. Their memberships encompass most physicians in the United States.