ACP president Dr. Robert McLean provides input on pending gun violence legislation at congressional roundtable
Nov. 1, 2019 (ACP) – The average number of deaths from gun violence each year exceeds 36,000, and the average number of injuries is more than 100,000. The American College of Physicians remains committed to advocating to reduce the daily tolls of death and injury from firearms.
In recent efforts, ACP President Dr. Robert McLean participated in a congressional roundtable sponsored by California Rep. Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician, and other physicians, public health professionals and legislators to draw attention to this public health epidemic and encourage the Senate to act on pending gun violence legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Rep. Mike Thompson, chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, also joined the discussion.
Several gun safety measures have been passed in the House of Representatives but now linger in the Senate. In February 2019, the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, two pieces of bipartisan legislation that enhance background checks for gun owners. Both bills are now awaiting a vote in the Senate.
“We must continue to push the urgency of a number of bipartisan actions to help curb gun violence,” McLean said.
“As physicians and public health experts, we are equipped with the knowledge, data and firsthand experience to treat the public health crisis of gun violence,” Ruiz said in a news release. “We see what this epidemic looks like from the ground level, which is why it is important we declare together: this is our lane.”
As a result of the roundtable, legislators now have direct access to physician and public health thought leaders for input on legislation and other ways to end gun violence, McLean said.
Citing the auto industry's pushback when public health advocates first called for seatbelt laws, McLean said it now is time to make guns safer in a similar fashion. Doing so will take innovation on the part of manufacturers, but some examples could include a gun that won't load without a proper thumbprint ID, he said.
Until then, the onus is on all physicians to encourage safe storage of guns, McLean said. This important conversation can be conducted in a non-confrontational way. “We need to ask, ‘Do you have a gun in the house?’ just like we ask, ‘Do you smoke or consume excessive alcohol?’” he said. “If the answer is yes, we need to ask if it is stored safely under lock and key.”
In other ACP efforts regarding gun violence, an additional 35 organizations endorsed a joint call to action with recommendations on reducing firearm injury and death, joining the ACP and six other major physician and public health organizations who were already on board. “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action From the Nation's Leading Physician and Public Health Professional Organizations” is published online in Annals of Internal Medicine.
In mid-October, ACP also sent a letter to Congress to applaud the House's inclusion of $50 million in funding for public health research on preventing firearm-related morbidity and mortality. “We urge its inclusion in any final appropriations package,” McLean said. The current continuing resolution, a temporary measure that Congress can use to fund the federal government for a limited time, expires on Nov. 21, 2019.
The policy statement “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action From the Nation's Leading Physician and Public Health Professional Organizations” is available on the Annals of Internal Medicine website.