CHICAGO — In his remarks to the opening session of the American Medical Association (AMA) Annual Meeting, AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D., issued an urgent call to action for physician leadership to reduce gun violence. Two years after the AMA declared gun violence a public health crisis, and as more than 30,000 Americans continue to die annually from gun violence, Dr. Barbe reiterated the AMA’s decades of leadership on the issue and outlined why physicians have a responsibility to lead.

Watch video of Dr. Barbe’s remarks on gun violence.

The full text of Dr. Barbe’s remarks on gun violence, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“At this meeting, we will have an opportunity to demonstrate physician leadership on a public health crisis that has, so far, defied solution: gun violence.  At the start of our Annual Meeting in 2016, shocked by the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, this House acted.  We led with a critical declaration: gun violence in America is a public health crisis.

“In the two years that have passed, we have been horrified by yet more carnage: in Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas.   And those are just a few of the incidents that made headlines.  On average, gun violence claims the lives of nearly 100 people a day in the United States.

“People are dying of gun violence in our homes, churches, schools, on street corners, and at public gatherings. 

“Colleagues, we, America’s physicians, have the opportunity—but more than that, the responsibility—in coming days, to act on several resolutions that address this devastating crisis of our time.

“The AMA has demonstrated leadership on this issue for decades: we’ve recommended common-sense gun safety protections; waiting periods and background checks for those seeking to purchase a gun; and increased funding for mental health services. 

“We’ve called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct epidemiological research on gun violence—perhaps the only leading cause of death where such research is not being conducted.

“Yet the fact that this problem continues to worsen has spurred a new sense of urgency in this House, even while Congress fails to act.

“To those who feel we should not address this as an organization because it is too controversial, I would ask: 

  • Did we shy away from fighting discrimination against AIDS patients in the early days of that epidemic; even though much of society stigmatized those with HIV?
    No, we let the science lead us.
  • Did we mute our opposition to smoking, because Big Tobacco defended it?
    No, we let the science lead us.
  • And even now, have we backed away from our support of universal vaccinations or gains made through the Affordable Care Act because they are controversial?
    No, we let the science lead us.

“Similarly, I would submit to you that the AMA must not back down from addressing gun violence.  On the contrary, we must address it head on . . . scientifically, in an evidence-based, principled fashion, and with the health and safety of our communities, our fellow Americans, and our children as our chief concern. 

“While we will not all agree on every proposal introduced on gun violence, we can all agree that the issue must be addressed . . . and that the only responsible way forward is for women and men of good faith to continue to search for and advocate science-based solutions. 

“That is true physician leadership.”

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