CHICAGO – Shocked by the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that gun violence in America is a public health crisis. Since then, tens of thousands more Americans have died in gun violence, in mass shootings and suicides, incidents that often stunned the nation and sometimes went unnoticed even locally. Delegates to the AMA Annual Meeting this week seized on this sense of urgency and passed numerous resolutions that bolstered the AMA’s already strong policy on gun violence prevention, ranging from banning bump stocks to opposing concealed carry reciprocity legislation.
“People are dying of gun violence in our homes, churches, schools, on street corners and at public gatherings, and it’s important that lawmakers, policy leaders and advocates on all sides seek common ground to address this public health crisis,” said AMA Immediate Past President David O. Barbe, M.D. “In emergency rooms across the country, the carnage of gun violence has become a too routine experience. Every day, physicians are treating suicide victims, victims of domestic partner violence, and men and women simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we urge lawmakers to act.”
Delegates adopted the following policies regarding guns:
Advocating for schools as gun-free zones
The AMA will advocate for schools to remain gun-free zones—with the exception of school-sanctioned activities and professional law enforcement officials. The AMA also opposes requirements or incentives for teachers to carry weapons in schools.
Calling for ban on sale of assault-type weapons, high-capacity magazines
New policy calls for banning the sale and ownership of all assault-type weapons, bump stocks and related devices, high capacity magazines, and armor piercing bullets. This policy also requires that firearm owners are licensed, complete a safety course and register all firearms.
Expanding domestic violence restraining orders to include dating partners
The AMA supports laws that would prevent anyone who is under a domestic violence restraining order or convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes—including stalking, from purchasing or owning a firearm. Additionally, the policy supports closing the loophole that currently exists in federal law to extend domestic violence restraining orders to include protection for dating partners.
Removing firearms from high-risk individuals
Delegates voted to support gun violence restraining orders that would allow family members, intimate partners, household members, and law enforcement personnel to petition a court to remove firearms from individuals who pose a high or imminent risk for violence. The new policy also requires states to have protocols or processes in place for requiring the removal of firearms by prohibited people, and requiring gun violence restraining orders to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Supporting increase in legal age of purchasing ammunition and firearms from 18 to 21
While federal law limits the purchase of handguns to age 21 and purchase of long guns to age 18 from a licensed firearms dealer, unlicensed persons may sell a long gun to a person of any age and handguns to individuals 18 and older; and federal law and laws in 38 states allow 18- to 20-year-olds to legally possess handguns from unlicensed sellers, such as online retailers and sellers at gun shows. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have laws that impose a minimum age of 21 for all handgun sales. Dick’s Sporting Goods, L.L. Bean, and Walmart have recently changed their age of firearm purchase to 21.
Opposing federal legislation permitting “concealed carry reciprocity” across state lines
Such a law would require all states to recognize concealed carry permits granted by other states and allow citizens with concealed carry permits in one state to carry guns into states that have stricter laws. The law could endanger law enforcement agents, victims of domestic violence, and the public. AMA has supported the right of local jurisdictions to enact firearm regulations that are stricter than those that exist in state statutes, but concealed carry laws lower standards to the lowest common denominator.
Supporting gun buyback programs in order to reduce the number of circulating, unwanted firearms
The AMA is supporting the concept of gun buyback programs as well as research to determine the effectiveness of the program in reducing firearm injuries and deaths.
Over the past two decades, the AMA has developed numerous additional policy recommendations to reduce gun violence, including:
- A waiting period for firearm availability
- Background checks for all firearm purchasers
- Firearm safety and research and enhancing access to mental health care
- Gun safety education and regulation of interstate traffic of guns
- Distribution of firearm safety materials in the clinical setting
- Limit and control the possession and storage of weapons on school property
- Firearm safety counseling with patients
- Trigger locks and gun cabinets to improve firearm safety
- Data on firearm deaths and injuries
- Prevention of unintentional shooting deaths among children
- Ban on handguns and automatic repeating weapons
- Prevention of firearm accidents in children
- Waiting period before gun purchase
- Restriction of assault weapons
- Mandated penalties for crimes committed with firearms
- Public health policy approach for preventing violence in America
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About the AMA
The American Medical Association is the powerful ally and unifying voice for America’s physicians, the patients they serve, and the promise of a healthier nation. The AMA attacks the dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care. It reimagines medical education, training, and lifelong learning for the digital age to help physicians grow at every stage of their careers, and it improves the health of the nation by confronting the increasing chronic disease burden. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.