January 5, 2016
Statement of the American College of Physicians
Steven E. Weinberger, MD, MACP
EVP/CEO, American College of Physicians (ACP)
The American College of Physicians (ACP) strongly supports President Obama's executive order to reduce violence, injuries and deaths from firearms. The policies put forth today by President Obama appropriately include keeping guns out of the wrong hands through closing loopholes in background checks, making our communities safer from gun violence, increasing mental health treatment, and promoting research into technologies to make guns safer. Specifically:
- The College supports changes to require firearms dealers, including those engaged in sales from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet, to be licensed and conduct background checks. The American College of Physicians has long supported a universal background check system to keep guns out of the hands of felons, persons with mental illnesses that put them at a greater risk of inflicting harm to themselves or others, persons with substance use disorders, and others who already are prohibited from owning guns. While legislation is still needed to fully close existing loopholes, the action taken today is an important step toward keeping guns out of the hands of persons who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others.
- The College believes that better access to mental health treatment must be a key component of a comprehensive approach to reduce firearms-related violence. ACP specifically supports the administration's call for a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care. Mental health services should be readily available to persons in need throughout their lives or through the duration of their conditions. Ensuring an adequate availability of psychiatric beds and outpatient treatment for at-risk persons seeking immediate treatment for a condition that may pose a risk of violence to themselves or others should be a priority.
- While the College believes that improvements should be made in reporting of persons with mental health conditions that, under current law, disqualify them from purchasing firearms, we caution against broadly including those with mental illness in a category of dangerous individuals. Instead, the College recommends that every effort be made to reduce the risk of suicide and violence, through prevention and treatment, by the subset of individuals with mental illness who are at risk of harming themselves or others. ACP supports providing clear guidance on what mental and substance use records should be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The federal government should increase incentives and penalties related to state compliance. The law requiring federal agencies to submit substance use records should be enforced.
- ACP supports research to improve gun safety. The College supports the executive order's call for the federal government to advance gun safety research. We specifically support research into efforts to improve and modify firearms to make them as safe as possible, including the incorporation of built-in safety devices (such as trigger locks and signals that indicate a gun is loaded). Further research is needed on the development of personalized guns.
We are encouraged that today's executive order addresses many of the recommendations the College made in a 2014 position paper on reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths, and in a 2015 Call to Action from eight health professional organizations and the American Bar Association that now has been endorsed by more than 50 supportive organizations.
Today, we pledge to do our part to do everything possible to end the recurring tragedy of deaths and injuries from persons using firearms and all forms of violence.
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 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 and Facebook.
David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554