Public Health

AMA calls for background checks, wait periods to prevent gun violence

The AMA adopted policy calling for background checks and a waiting period for all firearms purchasers, expanding on its previous policy of requiring the same for only handguns. 

"The shooting in Orlando is a horrific reminder of the public health crisis of gun violence rippling across the United States," AMA Immediate-Past President Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a news release. "Mass killers have used AR-15s, rifles and handguns, and today we strengthened our policy on background checks and waiting periods to cover them all, with the goal of keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people."

Eighteen states have background check requirements, but the provisions vary widely. The AMA considers firearms a public health issue. The newest policy builds on numerous AMA policies that support increased firearm safety to reduce and prevent firearm violence. The new AMA policy parallels policies endorsed by other health organizations.

Allowing research

Earlier at the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting, the AMA adopted policy calling gun violence in the United States “a public health crisis” requiring a comprehensive public health response and solution. Additionally, the AMA resolved to lobby Congress to overturn legislation that for 20 years has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries,” Dr. Stack said. “An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement, and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms.”