In updates to existing policy statement, College advocates for ‘common-sense policies' to prevent injuries and deaths
Nov. 2, 2018 (ACP) – As Americans mourn the victims of the recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the American College of Physician's newly updated policy statement calling for sweeping changes to reduce firearm injuries and deaths takes on even greater urgency.
“The rate of injuries and deaths related to firearms and the growing incidence of mass shootings brings to light, once again, the glaring lack of firearm policy in the U.S. – a country with one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world,” said Dr. Ana Maria López, ACP's president. “This most recent event makes it more important than ever that Congress and states implement common-sense policies that could prevent injuries and deaths from firearms.”
The 11 deaths at the Pittsburgh synagogue bring the number of mass shootings in the country so far this year to 298, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
ACP's policy statement, published in the current issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, offers nine strategies to reduce gun violence and death. They include support for laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who have a history of domestic violence, including those subject to restraining orders, as well as support for laws that allow family members to seek an immediate court order to remove guns from someone at risk of using firearms to harm themselves or others.
“This is a big piece as we are aware of some individuals who could be at risk of harming themselves or others,” López said, adding that the new legislation would provide freedom to act on this information before someone gets hurt or killed.
The updated firearms policy also re-emphasizes the need for a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 that was used in the synagogue shooting. As an interim step, ACP supports raising the minimum age to purchase these semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines to 21.
The policy also advocates for safe gun storage laws to reduce the risk of injuries and deaths caused by the presence of unsecured firearms in a household.
Also included in the policy statement is ACP's staunch opposition to what's known as concealed carry reciprocity legislation, which would allow anyone who can carry a concealed gun in one state to carry a concealed gun in another. ACP is also encouraging states with concealed carry laws to mandate training on how to handle and store firearms.
“There is increasing data that the states that have concealed carry laws in place have greater risk for injury and death,” López said.
Physicians also have a personal responsibility to counsel patients and help keep them safe from gun violence, she said.
“We have to help ensure that people who own firearms keep guns in a safe place and that people who are a danger to themselves or others don't have access to guns,” Lopez said.
She also urged doctors to ask patients about firearms in their homes.
“This is not about judgement,” Lopez said. “It is simply a responsibility – just like we ask patients if they use seat belts in the car or helmets when they ride a bicycle.”
ACP's position paper, “Reducing Firearms Injuries and Deaths in the United States,” is available on the Annals of Internal Medicine website.
ACP's statement after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting can be viewed on the College's website.