NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Building on its extensive policy on firearm safety, the American Medical Association (AMA) called on states today to strengthen their reporting of all relevant information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to help prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

The new policy, adopted at the Interim meeting of the House of Delegates, supports federal grants to states to improve NICS reporting and encourages states to automate the reporting of relevant records to NICS to improve the quality and timeliness of the data.

“For NICS to be a useful tool in the prevention of firearm injuries and deaths, it needs to contain the records of individuals disqualified under law from possessing firearms—and the data needs to be reported in a timely manner,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD. “Inconsistencies in state reporting has contributed to the lack of success in identifying individuals who should not have a firearm.”

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 required the establishment of a computerized system to facilitate background checks on individuals seeking to acquire firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers. Administered by the FBI, NICS was created in 1998 and has denied hundreds of thousands of gun purchases to prohibited persons. Records in NICS, however, are provided voluntarily by state, local, tribal, and federal agencies. And states are inconsistent in how they report records that would disqualify someone from purchasing a gun. Also, loopholes in the law (e.g., unlicensed dealers) have limited the reach of background checks. As a result, the individuals who are disqualified from possessing firearms are managing to buy guns.

“Making sure that relevant information is consistently reported could help save lives,” McAneny said. “Physicians often see patients at risk of firearm injury and death, including patients at risk of suicide. A stronger federal background check system will help protect patients.”

The AMA also amended existing policy regarding the ban on the manufacture, importation and sale of any firearm that cannot be detected by airport screening devices to include 3D-printed firearms. It also supported a ban on production and distribution of 3D-firearm digital blueprints.

 “The proliferation of 3D printers will increase access to guns in an unregulated manner. We need to address this issue now before these weapons play a role in the terrifying rate of gun violence in this country,” McAneny said.

As one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths, the AMA recognizes that firearm-related violence is a public health crisis in the United States. The AMA has extensive policy on firearm safety and violence prevention. The AMA "recognizes that uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public's health inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths" (H-145.997). AMA policy supports legislation calling for a waiting period before purchasing any form of firearm (H-145.991H-145.992, and H-145.996), and supports requiring background checks for all handgun purchasers (H-145.991H-145.996).

Delegates adopted another resolution encouraging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, and news organizations to develop recommendations for media coverage of mass shootings in a manner that is unlikely to provoke additional incidents. The CDC and the World Health Organization have developed similar recommendations for coverage of suicides in the belief that a “contagion effect” exists in which one violent episode is more likely to lead to another.

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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.

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