Efforts include tool kit to help ACP chapters push for action from their state legislatures
April 5, 2019 (ACP) – With the public's health at stake, the American College of Physicians is urging members to speak up in support of state-level legislation that would target firearms violence with common-sense restrictions.
At the same time, ACP continues to encourage Congress to take action on the national level and is pleased with bills passed by the House of Representatives so far this year.
“For more than 20 years, ACP has advocated for the need to address firearm-related injuries and deaths in the United States,” said Brian Buckley, senior associate for legislative affairs with ACP. “Tragically, firearms violence continues to be a public health crisis that requires the nation's immediate attention and bipartisan intervention,”
“ACP is concerned about not only the alarming number of mass shootings but also the daily toll of firearms violence in neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, and public and private places across the country.” he said. “It is a public health threat.”
ACP played a crucial role in this debate last year when it helped spark an outcry from physicians about the ravages of firearm violence that they see every day.
The impetus was a tweet from the National Rifle Association – “Stay in Your Lane” – in response to the release of an ACP firearm policy paper and accompanying editorials in Annals of Internal Medicine. Hundreds of physicians responded on social media and elsewhere using the hashtags #thisisourlane and #thisismylane.
“COME INTO MY LANE. Tell one mother her child is dead with me, then we can talk,” tweeted New York City emergency physician Dr. Marianne Haughey.
“Annals of Internal Medicine is not anti-gun; we are anti-bullet holes in people,” Dr. Christine Laine, the journal editor, wrote in a statement given to The New York Times. “And if we are biased, the bias is toward counseling our patients to reduce their risk of firearm injury and toward evidence-based solutions to the public health crisis that firearm injury has become.”
On the congressional front, legislation on background checks passed recently by the House has met with ACP approval. This includes the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would expand and enhance the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It would also expand Brady background checks to cover all firearm sales, including unlicensed sellers who currently are not required to use background checks.
With some exceptions, the legislation would also expand background checks to cover all private and commercial firearm transfers and sales, including those that take place at gun shows, over the Internet, or through classified ads.
ACP has also expressed support for another bill passed by the House – the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 – that would expand the amount of time allotted for background checks. Its supporters say that would close a loophole that allows firearms to be transferred to purchasers before background checks are complete. That has become known as the “Charleston loophole” because the man who killed nine people in a mass shooting in a Charleston, S.C., church used a gun purchased before his background check was complete.
However, as Buckley noted, “most of the action on legislation to reduce gun violence will take place at the state level of government so it is vital for state chapters to take action.”
To aid in that effort, ACP has created a Chapter Action Tool Kit that provides resources and guidance about ways to address this issue with state legislators.
“In 2018, 1,638 firearms-related bills were introduced in state legislatures across the nation,” Buckley said. “Sixty-seven new firearm safety laws were enacted in 26 states and Washington, D.C., addressing enhanced background checks, bump stocks and trigger activators, concealed carry permits, dealer regulation, domestic violence loopholes, extreme risk protection orders, firearms in schools and large-capacity ammunition magazines.”
For instance, New York passed legislation that bans those deemed a threat to themselves or others from having a firearm, bars school districts from arming teachers in schools, expands background checks, bans bump stocks that enable rapid fire, bars the making of plastic firearms through 3D technology, addresses safe storage of firearms and raises the age for legal firearms purchases.
In Oregon, legislation has been introduced that would require a permit to possess a firearm before purchase, limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased, outlaw magazine clips that hold more than five rounds and implement firearm locking and storage requirements.
New Mexico legislators are considering legislation that would expand background checks, prevent teachers from carrying firearms in schools and implement red flag laws, which restrict access to firearms for people deemed to be a harm to themselves or others. And in Arizona, legislation has been introduced to allow the removal of firearms from domestic abusers.
ACP is asking state chapters to urge their legislatures and governors to take the following actions:
- Enact child access prevention laws to ensure safe storage of firearms.
“The presence of unlocked and/or loaded guns in homes increases the risk of both unintentional gun injuries and intentional shootings,” Buckley said. “Child access prevention laws hold firearm owners accountable for the safe storage of firearms by imposing criminal liability on those who negligently store firearms under circumstances where minors could or do gain access to them.”
- Enact extreme risk protection orders to protect community members.
These orders, also called red flag laws, empower families, household members or law enforcement officers to ask a judge to temporarily remove a person's access to firearms if that person is at imminent risk of using them to harm themselves or others.
If the judge agrees that the person is a threat, firearms would be temporarily removed from the person's home and their ability to purchase firearms would be restricted.
Buckley said that 11 states currently have laws allowing these orders, and two others have similar laws.
- Close loopholes in the background check system that enable domestic violence offenders to obtain firearms.
Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence and those subject to certain domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns. However, these laws generally do not apply to people victimize non-spouse partners or family members other than a child, and they do not apply to persons with temporary, versus permanent, domestic violence restraining orders.
“ACP calls on these domestic violence loopholes to be closed by prohibiting sales and possession of firearms by persons convicted of domestic violence offenses on persons outside of their own household,” Buckley said, “as well as for any person with a temporary restraining order during the time when the restraining order is in effect.”
The ACP Chapter Action Tool Kit on reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths is available on the ACP website.