CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, voted this week to adopt new policies related to firearm violence during the voting session of the AMA’s Annual Meeting.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates include:

Ensuring active-shooter and live-crisis drills consider mental health of children

With school shootings continuing at a troubling pace and few regulations in place to address the country’s firearm crisis, some schools prepare faculty and children to respond. While well intentioned, there are concerns that the style of drill may have unintended harmful effects on children’s mental health. To address these concerns, the AMA adopted policy today encouraging active-shooter and live-crisis drills to be conducted in an evidence-based and trauma-informed way that takes children’s physical and mental wellness into account, considers prior experiences that might affect children's response to a simulation, avoids creating additional traumatic experiences for children, and provides support for students who may be adversely affected.

The AMA will work with relevant stakeholders to raise awareness of ways to conduct active-shooter or live-crisis drills that are safe for children and developmentally appropriate. The AMA will also advocate for research into the impact of live-crisis exercises and drills on the physical and mental health and well-being of children, including the goals, efficacy, and potential unintended consequences of crisis-preparedness activities involving children.

“In the wake of another spate of school shootings in the U.S., schools around the country may hold active-shooter and live-crisis drills to prepare their schools and staff to respond. However, it’s important that these drills and exercises are conducted in an evidence-based way and that we understand the potential consequences for the mental health and well-being of children,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D.

Regulating ghost guns

With the rising availability of homemade “ghost guns,” the AMA called on state legislatures and Congress to subject these weapons to the same regulations and licensing requirements as traditional firearms. Over the past two decades, the AMA has developed numerous policy recommendations to reduce firearm trauma, injury and death, including a waiting period for firearm availability and background checks for all firearm purchasers.

“America’s physicians treat gun violence victims every single day, and we see it for the public health crisis that it is. We see the urgency of the moment, and we call on Congress to meet the moment. The AMA has exhaustive policy to address the public health crisis of gun violence. These policies – and laws – need to be constantly updated to address the pernicious ingenuity of gun manufacturers,” said AMA Trustee Thomas J. Madejski, M.D.

Advocating for warning labels on ammunition packages

The AMA will support legislation requiring that packaging for any firearm ammunition produced in, sold in, or exported from the United States carry a boxed warning.

At a minimum, the warning should be text-based statistics and/or graphic warning labels related to the risks, harms, and mortality associated with firearm ownership and use. It also should include an explicit recommendation that ammunition be stored securely and separately from firearms.   

“Evidence suggests that graphic warning labels on tobacco packaging reduced tobacco use. With the frightening frequency of mass shootings, this approach on ammunition might save lives as part of a comprehensive approach to firearm dangers,” said AMA Trustee Thomas J. Madejski, M.D.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.