Internists Applaud Passage of Bills Bolstering Background Checks for Firearms Purchasers by Key Congressional Committee

Statement attributable to:
Ana María López, MD, MPH, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (February 14, 2019) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) commends the passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, bringing the legislation one step closer to passing the House. This is the first major legislation to address firearms violence to be reported out of a congressional committee in decades, showing the growing strength of the movement to enact common-sense policies to keep guns out of the hands of those intending harm to themselves or others.

This bill was reported out just hours before the tragic one year anniversary of the horrific mass shooting of students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and speaks to the urgent need for congressional action to prevent gun violence. The students who survived the shooting have galvanized a March for Our Lives national movement to pressure lawmakers to take action, one that is strongly supported by ACP and more broadly, by the medical profession. Physicians see the dire consequences of gun violence too frequently, and these bills are positive steps forward in improving public health by implementing common-sense measures that will reduce the threat of injury or death from firearms.

ACP strongly supports this legislation and other policies that strengthen background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 would substantially improve the background check system and make important strides in improving public health by keeping guns out of the hands of individuals at risk of harming themselves or others, while the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 would close a loophole allowing firearms to be transferred by gun owners before background checks are complete. This helped enable the 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 2018, ACP released a policy paper offering evidence-based strategies to help reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths. The recommendations in Reducing Firearm-Related Injuries and Deaths in the U.S. include support for laws to improve background checks and legislation that will prohibit persons with a history of domestic violence—including persons subject to restraining orders—from buying and possessing firearms. ACP’s recommendations, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sparked the #ThisIsOurLane physician movement to reduce gun violence, when thousands of physicians spoke out on gun violence prevention in response to a National Rifle Association tweet attacking ACP for addressing the problem.

While ACP is encouraged by recent legislation aimed at reducing firearms violence, more must be done in light of #ThisIsOurLane to elevate awareness and educate patients and the communities that physicians serve on the dangers of unchecked, unsecure firearms. In addition to enactment of laws to prevent gun violence, ACP encourages physicians to pledge to discuss harm reduction with at-risk patients who have guns in their homes. 

All ACP firearms-related health policy content published in Annals of Internal Medicine is free to the public at


About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 154,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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