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Physician, Healthcare Organizations Plead Again for Action on Gun Violence

Allison Inserro
Since the first call to action was published in 2015, there have been 18 firearm-related mass murders with 4 or more deaths, killing 288 people and injuring 703 more.
Seven physician and public health organizations issued another call to action to reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths in the United States after another spate of mass shootings in 3 states.

The joint article, Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action from the Nation’s Leading Physician and Public Health Professional Organizations, was published Wednesday 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 of the American College of Physicians (ACP) in a statement.

Other organizations signing on include 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.

Doctors and healthcare staff took to Twitter again Thursday, using the hashtags #ThisIsOurLane and #ThisIsMyLane, to share the paper and their stories The hashtags were created last fall after a tweet from the National Rifle Association told them to “stay in their lane” after a similar policy paper was published.

Since the first call to action was published in 2015, there have been 18 firearm-related mass murders with 4 or more deaths, killing 288 people and injuring 703 more, the paper said. Since 2017, however, a total of 39,773 people died in the United States as a result of firearm-related injury, from all causes:
  • 23,854 (59.98%) suicides
  • 14,542 (36.56%) homicides
  • 553 (1.39%) described as “the result of legal intervention
  • 486 (1.22%) subsequent to unintentional discharge of a firearm
  • 338 (0.85%) undetermined
Gun-related injury and death imposes a total societal cost estimated to be $229 billion in 2015, the paper said.

In addition, earlier this week the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a statement opposing those who seek to portray all mass shooters as people who must be mentally ill in order to commit murder on such a large scale.

“Mental health programs are severely underfunded in this country and access to needed care is challenging for individuals and families,” the APA said. “It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent and far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence. Rhetoric that argues otherwise will further stigmatize and interfere with people accessing needed treatment. Individuals can also be emboldened to act violently by the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”

While the statement did not call out any official by name, it appeared to refer to statements made by President Trump that same day, who said “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” in reference to Saturday’s shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart that killed 22 people, and one in Dayton, Ohio that killed 9.   

In the joint paper Thursday, the organizations said that they “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.”

The organizations also called for:
  • Research to improve understanding of the causes and consequences of firearm-related injury and death and to identify, test, and implement strategies to reduce these events is important.
  • Comprehensive criminal background checks for all firearm purchases
  • Addition of dating partners, stalkers or individuals who commit violence against another family member to the categories of people prohibited by federal law from buying firearms.
  • Laws that hold firearms owners accountable for negligently storing firearms; the organizations highlighted the risk for 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/or others.
  • Enactment of extreme risk protection order laws, which allow families and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from individuals at imminent risk for using them to harm themselves or others.
  • Protection of confidential patient-physician communication on issues that affect their health, including counseling at-risk patients about mitigating the risks associated with firearms in the home and firearm safety.
  • Constitutionally appropriate policies that effectively address high-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity


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