The American College of Physicians has issued a statement in response to President Barack Obama's recently announced executive order aimed at increasing gun control and reducing gun deaths.
The organization highlighted aspects of the order, noting that they address recommendations previously detailed by the ACP, and warned against generally labeling those with mental illnesses as dangerous.
"The ACP strongly supports President Obama's executive order to reduce violence, injuries and deaths from firearms," Steven E. Weinberger, MD, MACP, executive vice president and CEO of ACP, said in a press release. "The policies put forth today by President Obama appropriately include keeping guns out of the wrong hands through closing loopholes in background checks, making our communities safer from gun violence, increasing mental health treatment and promoting research into technologies to make guns safer."
In a 2015 call to action published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the ACP, along with other health professional organizations and the American Bar Association, advocated for changes to background checks for firearm purchases, mental health and research funding with the goal of reducing firearm-related injury and death.
Similar measures were included in President Obama's executive order. The president took action to strengthen the background checks by ensuring firearms dealers are licensed and conducting checks and that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is updated and better staffed. Additionally, the president proposed $500 million in funding to increase mental health care access, ordering the removal of barriers to background check communication for those with mental illnesses, and directing various departments to increase efforts in the research and development of smart gun technology.
The ACP supports announced changes to the background check system, gun safety research efforts and improved access to mental health services, but cautioned against "broadly including those with mental illness in a category of dangerous individuals" when reporting conditions that would disqualify certain individuals from purchasing guns.
"Instead, the College recommends that every effort be made to reduce the risk of suicide and violence, through prevention and treatment, by the subset of individuals with mental illness who are at risk of harming themselves or others," Weinberger said in the release. "ACP supports providing clear guidance on what mental and substance abuse records should be submitted to [NICS]. The federal government should increase incentives and penalties to state compliance. The law requiring federal agencies to submit substance abuse records should be enforced."