ACP applauds recent efforts at the federal level that are in line with recommendations from its 2018 policy paper on firearm violence
April 16, 2021 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians believes that firearm violence is a public health emergency and is making sure that Congress understands its firm position as the issue once again comes to the forefront of the national conversation.
“Physicians are literally at the bleeding edge of firearm injury and have an obligation and duty to address this public health crisis,” wrote Dr. Douglas M. DeLong, a former chair of the Board of Regents of ACP, in the ACP journal Annals of Internal Medicine. “The health consequences of firearms include not only homicides and suicides but also accidental deaths and injuries. Further, a full picture of the adverse consequences of firearm injuries and fatalities must recognize the toll on the well-being of individuals and communities that suffer in their wake.”
ACP feels it must be a crucial voice in the debate over firearm violence. “For more than 20 years, we have advocated for the need to address firearm-related injuries and deaths in the United States,” said Jared Frost, ACP senior associate of legislative affairs. “As an organization representing physicians who have firsthand experience with the devastating impact on the health of their patients resulting from firearms-related injuries and deaths, ACP has a responsibility to be part of the solution in trying to mitigate firearms-related tragedies. ACP is concerned about not only the alarming number of mass shootings in the United States, but also the daily toll of firearm violence in neighborhoods, homes, workplaces and public and private places across the country.”
High-profile mass shooting incidents declined in number during the coronavirus pandemic, but recent weeks have brought news of multiple deaths in states such as Colorado, California, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. President Biden responded by supporting a series of executive actions in early April.
“We applaud the president for addressing this public health epidemic by dedicating specific time, resources and funds to the issue,” Frost said. “His actions are consistent with the types of recommendations that ACP put forward in our 2018 policy paper on firearm violence. Specifically, ACP supports regulating ‘ghost guns,’ which are difficult to track and trace, and applying National Firearms Act regulations to stabilizing brace devices that could alter a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, which can make concealable firearms more dangerous by making them more stable and accurate.”
ACP is supporting several types of firearms legislation:
- Funding for gun violence prevention research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “This type of research had gone unfunded by the federal government for decades,” Frost said. “Working with other advocacy groups, ACP has continued to support this funding and is pleased that Congress for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years has enacted funding for this research, with $12.5 million allocated to the CDC and $12.5 million to the NIH. ACP urges Congress to continue to fund this research and increase total overall funding to $50 million for the next fiscal year.”
- Bills in the Senate and House to improve firearm background checks. “These bills would strengthen the accuracy and reporting of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as well as expand Brady background checks to cover all firearm sales, including unlicensed firearms sellers currently not required to use background checks,” Frost said. “ACP applauds the House for passage of this legislation and urges Senate leadership to expedite its consideration in the Senate.”
- Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This bill includes provisions to prohibit persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, including against people outside their own household, from possessing firearms. It also prohibits persons who are subject to a temporary or permanent court order of protection from possessing firearms. ACP hopes to see the Senate follow the House's lead and approve this legislation.
- Reintroduction and passage of the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019. These bills would allow states to develop a process that would allow family members to petition a court to temporarily prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing weapons from federally licensed dealers. States could also implement a procedure for family members to petition for an extreme risk protection order that would grant law enforcement the authority to temporarily take weapons away from individuals who present a threat to themselves or others.
Frost acknowledged that passage of bills in the Senate will be challenging because filibuster rules that require 60 votes can prevent legislation from going anywhere if it lacks both Democratic and Republican support.
“However, ACP continues to advocate for the above bills and hopes that the Senate can come together in a bipartisan fashion once again as it did in 2013 when a majority of senators did support a proposal (the bill fell six votes shy of the needed 60) that strengthened the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” he said. “Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to taking up firearms measures in the Senate. ACP will continue to advocate both on its own and with its stakeholder partners to convince senators to take the first step in reducing gun violence. While progress can seem slow, we are making progress.”
ACP members can access an ACP Chapter Action Tool Kit with suggestions about how to engage federal and state legislators on the State Health Policy page of the ACP website.