Internists, Leading Physician & Public Health Organizations Urge Immediate Action to Prevent Firearm-related Injury, Death
August 8, 2019
The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the nation’s leading physician and public health organizations called for policies to reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths in the U.S. in a new call-to-action, “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action from the Nation’s Leading Physician and Public Health Professional Organizations,” published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“We are living in a world where gun violence is becoming increasingly common, and as physicians, we have a responsibility to address this public health crisis and to keep our patients safe and healthy,” said Robert McLean, MD, FACP, president, ACP.
ACP, together with the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Public Health Association, delineate the following in a new policy paper:
• Comprehensive criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, including sales by gun dealers, sales at gun shows, private sales and transfers between individuals with limited exceptions should be required.
• Research into the causes and consequences of firearm violence and unintentional injuries and deaths to help identify, test, and implement strategies to reduce these unnecessary injuries and deaths is urgently needed.
• Currently, federal laws prohibiting domestic abusers from accessing firearms apply only to spouses and not dating partners— this loophole in the background check system must be closed. Offenders who have been found guilty of a crime of violence against a family member or intimate partner, including dating partners, cohabitants, stalkers, and those who victimize a family member other than a partner or child should be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
• Storing firearms safely and securely is essential to reducing the risk of unintentional or intentional injuries or deaths from firearms, particularly in homes with children, adolescents, people with dementia, people with substance use disorders, and the small subset of people with serious mental illnesses that are associated with greater risk of harming themselves and others.
• The great majority of those with a mental illness or substance use disorder are not violent; however, screening, access and treatment for mental health disorders play a critical role in reducing self-harm and interpersonal violence. The organizations represented in this paper support improved access to mental health care and caution against broadly including all individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder in a category of individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms.
• Extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws, which allow families and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from individuals at imminent risk of using them to harm themselves or others, should be enacted in a manner consistent with due process.
• Physicians can and must be able to advise their patients on issues that affect their health, including counseling at-risk patients about mitigating the risks associated with firearms in the home and firearm safety.
• The magnitude and frequency of mass attacks are unacceptable to our organizations. A common-sense approach to reducing casualties in mass shooting situations must effectively address high-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity.
For more than two decades, ACP has advocated for the urgent need for impactful legislation that would reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths, and our policy paper sparked the “This Is Our Lane” movement of physicians speaking out on gun violence prevention. Additionally, in light of last weekend’s shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, ACP released a statement expressing our frustration and sadness.
“We need to protect our patients, their families, and our communities across the country from needless injuries and deaths, it’s time for the U.S. to put firearms violence prevention at the forefront of the health care conversation,” said Dr. McLean. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders, and continuing to speak out, to address this public health threat.”
All firearms-related health policy content published in Annals of Internal Medicine is free to the public at http://annals.org/aim/pages/firearm-related-content.