Meeting News Coverage

Organizations label firearm-related injuries, deaths ‘public health crisis’

BOSTON ─ Over 25 organizations have signed on in support of the ACP’s call to action regarding policy reform on gun laws to help aid in the reduction of firearm-related injuries and deaths.

“After that paper came out, we felt it was critical to have other organizations sign on as endorsers. We anticipate that there will be many other organizations that will be signing onto this,” Steven E. Weinberger, MD, FACP, executive vice president of the ACP, said during a press conference.

Steven E. Weinberger

The ACP, along with the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons and the American Psychiatric Association in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association released the original policy paper back in February. The call-to-action urged for universal background checks, restrictions on military-style assault weapons, elimination of physician gag laws and funding for research on firearm-related injuries and deaths.

“There is no question that uniform, sensible gun laws, like the ones we have here in Massachusetts, would drive down the number of out-of-state firearms, gun-related injuries and homicides. A comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence goes beyond legislation, it requires a medical and mental health component, a research component … and it requires a public perception component, like the ones that have successfully reduced tobacco use, drunken driving and domestic violence. There is absolutely no reason that the same principles can’t be applied to gun violence,” Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said during the press conference.

JudyAnn Brigby

JudyAnn Brigby, MD, senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, echoed these same points, adding that all fields need to work together to achieve the goal of reducing gun violence in the U.S.

Brigby also pointed out that a big attributing problem can be found in the way the country looks at mental health illnesses and those afflicted by them. She urged for a change to be made in how society handles the health care of mentally ill individuals. 

“From a public health standpoint, we have to do more to collectively reduce the death and harm from firearms, but we also have to recognize that there are pockets in our society that tell us that we have problems. If we, as a society, cannot put together a mental health system that treats those most severely ill individuals, then we are always going to be facing the question about how to stop these types [gun violence/mortality] of events,” Brigby said.

Patients who enter the ED with firearm-related injuries are likely to experience a repeated incidence of firearm injury, according to Ali S. Raja, MD, MBA, MPH, vice chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Raja noted that taking a stance towards preventative measures is a necessity in ending gun violence and mortality, particularly ensuring that those suffering from mental illness do not have access to firearms.

“I’m not advocating one way or another for gun control as a whole, but I do think when someone comes in suicidal, we should work towards someway for them to no longer have a firearm in the house. The key towards that is better psychiatric care,” Raja said during the press conference.  

When asked about whether or not the ACP would be open to have a sit-down with those opposing the recommendations of the policy paper, such as the National Rifle Association, Weinberger admits that while they would be open to it, he is not optimistic that it would happen, citing the NRA’s very outspoken opposition of the action.

“Implementing these policies won’t be easy. Powerful forces in this country will fight tooth and nail to prevent some of the very steps that are being proposed…Gun violence is a public health threat. But if there is a challenge to be faced, there is also an incalculable benefit to be gained,” Conley said. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: Weinberger, Raja and Brigby report no relevant financial disclosures.