Following two mass shootings last weekend that ended the lives of 31 people, seven leading medical organizations have said "enough" and called for action to prevent gun-related injuries and deaths.
In the aftermath of the back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that shook the country, the leaders of the physician and public health organizations called for immediate action to prevent gun violence in a special article published Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the publication of the American College of Physicians (ACP).
“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 ACP President Robert McLean, M.D., in a statement.
In addition to the ACP, the article was authored by the physicians who lead 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.
Along with McLean, the authors were Patrice Harris, M.D., John Cullen, M.D., Ronald V. Maier, M.D., Kyle E. Yasuda, M.D., Bruce J. Schwartz, M.D., and Georges C. Benjamin, M.D.
“We, the leadership of 6 of the nation's largest physician professional societies, whose memberships include 731,000 U.S. physicians, reiterate our commitment to finding solutions and call for policies to reduce firearm injuries and deaths,” the doctors wrote. The leaders of the physician organizations were joined by the American Public Health Association.
In the article, they suggest numerous steps to ending gun violence including addressing high-capacity magazines and firearms. “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,” the physician leaders wrote.
The authors noted the #ThisIsOurLane hashtag, which had thousands of physicians responding to a National Rifle Association tweet last November telling doctors to “stay in their lane” on gun control.
“Within hours, thousands of physicians responded, many using the hashtags #ThisIsOurLane and #ThisIsMyLane, and shared the many reasons why firearm injury and death is most certainly in our lane,” the authors wrote.
They noted that with nearly 40,000 firearm-related deaths in 2017, the United States has reached a 20-year high, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While not specifically mentioning the weekend mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, the doctors said mass shootings are a “hot spot in this public health crisis.”
“Mass shootings create a sense of vulnerability for everyone, that nowhere—no place of worship, no school, no store, no home, no public gathering place, no place of employment—is safe from becoming the venue of a mass shooting,” they said.
“While we recognize the significant political and philosophical differences about firearm ownership and regulation in the United States, we are committed to reaching out to bridge these differences to improve the health and safety of our patients, their families, and communities, while respecting the U.S. Constitution,” they said.
Among the other recommendations made by the physician leaders:
- Enactment of extreme risk protection order laws, so-called red alert 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.
- Requiring 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 exception.
- Encouraging research into the causes and consequences of firearm violence and unintentional injuries and deaths to help identify, test, and implement strategies to reduce them.
- Closing the loophole in federal laws that prohibit domestic abusers from accessing firearms to apply to dating partners as well as spouses, prohibiting offenders who have been found guilty of a crime of violence against a family member or intimate partner from purchasing or possessing firearms.
- Ensuring safe storage of 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.
- Improving access to mental health care, but the authors cautioned against broadly including all individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder in a category of individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms.
- Supporting the ability of physicians 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.
In its statement, the ACP noted that its 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 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 healthcare conversation,” said McLean. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders, and continuing to speak out, to address this public health threat.”