Proposed congressional legislation may be a first step to reducing firearms injuries and deaths
June 17, 2022 (ACP) — The American College of Physicians continues to press legislators to take action to prevent firearm violence. After more than two decades of raising the alarm, ACP is exploring new strategies to highlight this ongoing public health emergency and force leaders to listen to their constituents.
“We know what needs to be done. In conjunction with our allies across the field of medicine and beyond, we are intensifying our efforts to pressure lawmakers to enact measures we know will be effective in preventing injuries and deaths from firearms.,” said Bob Doherty, special advisor to the ACP chief advocacy officer and senior vice president emeritus.
ACP has released extensive policy statements regarding firearm violence, and it regularly urges Congress to support sensible legislation. ACP's advocacy led to the massive “#ThisIsOurLane” movement on social media that inspired medical professionals to talk about their encounters with gun violence after the National Rifle Association told ACP that physicians should stay in your lane” regarding the issue.
“The recurrence of mass shootings is frustrating and enraging,” Doherty said, “and they're just part of the picture. There were more homicides and suicides by gun last year than any other prior year, and gun ownership is reaching record levels. As a result, there is a sense of profound vulnerability in our society right now.”
There may be a glimmer of good news: Alarmed by recent mass shootings in Texas, Oklahoma and New York, Republican and Democratic senators have announced that they have reach an agreement on a framework for legislation to address gun violence. “It remains to be seen if all of the provisions in the agreement actually make it through to final legislation, and whether or not the bill can be passed by both the Senate and House,” Doherty said.
The announced agreement in the Senate includes provisions that ACP supports, like strengthening background checks to include juvenile criminal records for adults under the age of 21, encouraging states to adopt “red flag” laws that allow weapons to be confiscated from people who may be an imminent risk to themselves or others and closing the “boyfriend loophole “to prohibit persons convicted of domestic violence against others not living with them from buying guns. and boosting mental health services. The agreement does not include any provisions that would ban or restrict access to “assault weapons,” another ACP priority.
In 2019, ACP joined with 41 other leading organizations in a joint call-to-action that called for evidence-based solutions to mitigate firearm violence. And within recent weeks, ACP has activated its grassroots advocacy system to alert members to pressure their representatives in the House and Senate.
But ACP understands its advocacy strategies must evolve over time.
“The provisions announced by the Senate should be just the first step in efforts to reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths. Once we, hopefully, have this initial legislation passed and signed into law, we're going to be reaching out to our partner associations and discuss what we can do,” Doherty said. “Can we develop a public health messaging approach to educate people about the risk of having a gun in your home if someone is suffering from major depression and suicidal thoughts? Can we educate the public more about safeguarding weapons? We also want to explore whether we can develop a well-funded effort to push for further reform. We are ready to do what needs to be done.”
Members are encouraged to visit the ACP State Health Policy page to access an ACP Chapter Action Tool Kit with suggestions about how to engage your federal and state legislators.