Public Health

AMA backs common-sense measures to prevent gun injuries, deaths

In a sweeping set of actions aimed at reducing the toll of U.S. firearm deaths and injuries, the AMA House of Delegates today backed gun-violence restraining orders, tougher background checks and better data collection, among other measures.

“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, MD, MHA. “In emergency rooms across the country, the carnage of gun violence has become a too routine experience.

“Every day,” Dr. Barbe added, “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.”

This is not the first time the AMA has addressed the issue of firearm safety. For more than two decades, HOD—physicians convened from every state and most specialties across medicine—has recommended numerous policy solutions to address firearm safety.

These solutions range from common-sense gun safety protections, closing the gap in domestic violence restraining orders to include dating partners, and supporting research on gun buyback programs, . Importantly, the AMA has been pressing Congress and the administration to provide dedicated resources for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to advance research on gun violence.

The CDC says that more than 36,000 U.S. deaths a year involve firearms.

At the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting, delegates adopted policy for the AMA to support:

  • Establishing laws allowing family members, intimate partners, household members and law enforcement personnel to petition a court for the removal of a firearm when there is a high or imminent risk for violence.
  • Prohibiting persons who are under domestic violence restraining orders, convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes or stalking from possessing or purchasing firearms.
  • Expanding domestic violence restraining orders to include dating partners.
  • Requiring states to have protocols or processes in place for requiring the removal of firearms by prohibited persons.
  • Requiring domestic violence restraining orders and gun violence restraining orders to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Efforts to ensure the public is aware of the existence of laws that allow for the removal of firearms from high-risk individuals.

The delegates also modified existing policy to:

  • Recognize the role of firearms in suicides.
  • Encourage the development of curricula and training for physicians with a focus on suicide risk assessment and prevention as well as lethal means safety counseling.
  • Encourage physicians, as a part of their suicide prevention strategy, to discuss lethal means safety and work with families to reduce access to lethal means of suicide.

Newly adopted policy also means the AMA will:

  • Advocate for schools to remain gun-free zones except for school-sanctioned activities and professional law enforcement officials.
  • Oppose requirements or incentives of teachers to carry weapons.

Delegates also modified AMA policy on the restriction of assault weapons to support banning “the sale and ownership to the public of all assault-type weapons, bump stocks and related devices, high-capacity magazines, and armor piercing bullets.”

With the aim of improving firearm safety, the delegates also adopted policy that requires the licensing of owners of firearms including completion of a required gun safety course and registration of all firearms. . The HOD, also adopted policy to support “the concept of gun buyback programs as well as research to determine the effectiveness of the programs in reducing firearm injuries and deaths.”

Lastly, delegates amended existing policy to:

  • Support banning the possession and use of firearms and ammunition by unsupervised youths under the age of 21.
  • Support banning the sales of firearms and ammunition from licensed and unlicensed dealers to those under the age of 21—excluding certain categories of individuals, such as military and law enforcement personnel.
  • Oppose “concealed carry reciprocity” federal legislation that would require all states to recognize concealed-carry firearm permits granted by other states and that would allow citizens with concealed gun carry permits in one state to carry guns across state lines into states that have  stricter laws.  

Read more news coverage from the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting.