CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) voted today to expand its existing policy on gun safety to include support for waiting periods and background checks for all firearm purchasers. The previous policy supported waiting periods and background checks for handgun purchasers only. Today's vote builds on extensive, longstanding AMA policy on gun safety.
"The shooting in Orlando is a horrific reminder of the public health crisis of gun violence rippling across the United States. 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," said AMA past President Steven J. Stack, MD.
The new AMA policy parallels policies endorsed by other health organizations.
Earlier at the 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 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence.
The AMA has numerous, long-standing policies that support increasing the safety of firearms and their use, and reducing and preventing firearm violence. Our 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 in the U.S. (H-145.991, H-145.992, and H-145.996), and supports requiring background checks for all handgun purchasers (H-145.991, H-145.996).
AMA policy supports stricter enforcement of present federal and state gun safety legislation, and the imposition of mandated penalties for crimes committed with the use of a firearm, including the illegal possession of a firearm (Policy H-145.999). All of these policies were originally adopted in the late 1980s, when there was a national focus on handguns in part because access to relatively inexpensive handguns had led to an increase in homicide rates of homicide, especially among young people. The AMA has repeatedly reaffirmed these policies.
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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.