Doctors call for gun control after Las Vegas shooting

Emergency room sign
Doctors Monday called for gun control laws in the wake of a Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 and injured hundreds. (Getty/Nils Versemann)

Doctors’ groups added their voices to those of celebrities and politicians calling for tougher gun control laws following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that sent hundreds of wounded victims to local hospitals.

Several medical groups also called for restrictions on firearms following the Sunday night shooting, which killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 520 others.

The American Medical Association, the nation's largest doctor group, renewed the call for action to stop gun violence in a tweet. “Gun violence is a public health crisis, evident by the senseless loss of life and injury in Las Vegas. Thank you, brave first responders,” the group tweeted.

“Once again, tragedy reminds us: Action is needed to address this crisis of gun violence,” the group said, linking to a June 2016 statement in which it called for background checks and a waiting period for all firearm purchasers. That followed the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, at the Pulse nightclub when the group expanded its previous policy of seeking stricter controls for handguns.

The American Public Health Association also called for tougher gun control laws.

"This terrible tragedy is another reminder that we still need to address the role of gun violence in our country," Georges Benjamin, M.D., the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

"Individuals everywhere deserve laws that protect them from random acts of violence like this one. Comprehensive gun safety laws are a key component of violence prevention and a public health priority, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves,” he added.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said it is resolved to work harder for strong state and federal laws that protect children and communities.

"We are filled with grief and horror after the violent attack that took place at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. This mass shooting is staggering in the number of people killed and injured, and we mourn the victims of this massacre and grieve with their families,” CEO Karen Remley, M.D., and President Fernando Stein, M.D., said in a joint statement.

The group noted that laws governing gun ownership vary widely by state, but in Nevada, firearm owners are not required to have a license, register their weapons or pass a waiting period. There is also no limit on the number of firearms a person can own and assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines are legal.

“Despite the fact that these types of events have become all too common in our daily lives, we must not grow complacent in our reaction to them, and instead renew our resolve to stop them from occurring again and again," the two leaders said.

The police identified Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, as the lone gunman. He was found dead by police after he rained gunfire down on a crowd of 22,000 people gathered for a country music festival from his 32nd floor room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. In that room, he had at least 23 firearms, including a handgun and rifles equipped with scopes, according to a New York Times report.

"Mass shootings, each seemingly worse than the one before, have become frequent and even commonplace," said Jack Ende, M.D., president of the American College of Physicians. "Something needs to change."

The group called for a ban on the sale and ownership of automatic and semiautomatic weapons, which it said are designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

The shooting caused at least some witnesses of the massacre rethinking the issue of gun control.

Caleb Keeter, the guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, who performed Sunday at the festival, tweeted that the tragedy had changed his mind about the need for gun control. "I've been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night," he said. "I cannot express how wrong I was."

In a statement Monday, President Donald Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil.” He did not touch on the issue of gun control. White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that it was a day for consoling survivors and mourning those who died and that discussing gun control was premature.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday sent a letter (PDF) to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling gun violence a “heartbreaking epidemic” and urged him to create a special commission to write legislation to combat gun violence.

A report released yesterday in Health Affairs detailed the toll of gun violence in the U.S. Researchers said that emergency room and inpatient costs for firearm-related injuries total $2.8 billion each year.