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Internal Medicine Physicians Say Buffalo Shooting Highlights Multiple Public Health Crises

Statement attributable to:
Ryan D. Mire, MD, FACP
President, ACP

WASHINGTON May 17, 2022 – The American College of Physicians was deeply disturbed to hear about the mass shooting event that occurred in Buffalo, NY on Saturday, May 14. This weekend’s tragedy shows how the failings of our current regulations on firearms, the prevalence of  hate crimes, and racism intersected to cause preventable injuries and deaths to Black persons evidently targeted because of their race.

Physicians all too regularly come face-to-face with the tragedy that gun violence brings. 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. and the lack of access to mental health care in our country. For more than two decades we have sounded the alarm about the public health crisis caused by gun violence and called for policies that would reduce injuries and deaths stemming from firearms and improve access to behavioral health services. ACP strongly supports policies that strengthen background checks for individuals seeking to purchase firearms and prohibit the sale of semiautomatic firearms that are designed to increase their rapid killing capacity (often called “assault weapons”), such as the one evidently used by the alleged shooter in Buffalo. Improvements to the background check system might have prevented this individual from legally purchasing a firearm, given previous threats.

This weekend’s shooting also reinforces the horrific impact of hate crimes, which ACP has identified as a  public health issue, and racism in this country.  ACP has called attention to the tremendous negative impact that racism, discrimination and prejudice has on individual health and public health. The people who were killed on Sunday evidently were selected for no other reason than their race. This mass shooting, directed at Black people, happened the same weekend as another shooting in California that seems to have been directed at the Taiwanese community and killed Dr. John Cheng, a physician.  Both of these follow other shootings in recent years targeted at women, persons of Mexican or Asian origin and descent, Jewish, Sikh, and gay persons, among others, simply because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. We also see the daily toll of gun violence, including mass shootings occurring nearly every day, in our communities, workplaces, stores, places of worship, and homes.  We cannot continue to live in a country where people have to give special consideration to whether or not it’s safe to go about their everyday lives.

It is time for all who share our commitment to preventing avoidable deaths and injuries from firearms, and all who share our commitment to combatting racism and hate crimes, to come together to take action to help prevent future tragedies.

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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 161,000 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.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org