We’ve been covering a lot of medical association news related to the Newtown shooting and gun-related legislation, but that’s because we’re very focused on looking at what research can tell us about reducing firearm injury, and medical associations are closely involved with much of this research.

Just as the American Psychiatric Association issued their remarks last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent their own letter, which you can download here, to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders on December 19.

The organization had published a report on firearm-related injuries affecting children in their journal Pediatrics in October, in which they wrote “The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support a number of specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including the regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, ownership, and use of firearms; a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons; and the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use.”

Unsurprisingly, in their letter to political leaders, they were just as direct regarding policy proposals related to gun control, mental health and children’s exposure to violence:

•    ”New federal firearms legislation that bans assault weapon sales and the sales of high capacity magazines, strengthens mandatory waiting periods and background checks for all gun purchases and promotes strict gun safety policies is a necessary first step.
•    Next, the federal government must take action to improve access to services that meet the mental health and developmental needs of infants, children and adolescents, and ensures that children and families exposed to violence have access to a medical home and other community supports.
•    Finally, we must engage in a national dialogue designed to reduce children’s detrimental exposure to violence in their communities, environments and entertainment.”

We’ll be revisiting the full account of their policy report on firearms for a later blog post, but we also wanted to mention another article with similar recommendations. “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American Medical Association, also offered commentary related to firearm regulation.
It begins with very strong words: “While our national leaders agonize about the threats in the Middle East from missiles, bombs, and automatic weapons that might fall into terrorist hands, they have remained eerily silent about the unlimited access to weapons of mass destruction in our own backyard. In a sickening recapitulation of terror wrought in schools, movie theaters, and malls, our nation grieves for the large number of innocents murdered in a few minutes by a single American gunman. Yet the gun lobby has successfully muzzled political debate about guns, shut down federal research on gun-related injuries, and promoted legislation that prevents physicians from asking patients about gun-related risks.”

After exploring some of the policy possibilities that could be proposed for legislation, the article points out that we need to fund more research and then urges some specific policies measures:

  • “We can advocate for restoring the ability of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun-related injuries and fund these efforts generously.
  • We can advocate for a comprehensive analysis of gun ownership by the Institutes of Medicine.
  • We must resist all efforts such as a Florida law that restricts physicians’ ability to talk to patients about the risks of guns and routinely inquire about whether they own firearms.
  • We can press our national leaders to require registration, background checks, and waiting periods for all gun purchases, not only for some of them.
  • And we can push for requirements that make guns safer such as trigger locks that require a code to operate the weapon.
  • We can argue for legislation to restrict the sale of large-capacity magazines and formidable amounts of ammunition. Nothing in the recent Supreme Court rulings prevents such state or national legislation.
  • Even reducing the number of such weapons is not impossible, as illustrated by the 1996 Australian experience, in which a buy-back program substantially reduced the number of firearms in private hands and, to date, has eliminated mass shootings.”

One of the policy recommendations we are pursuing is the reinstatement of funds that have previously been used research firearm injury prevention, and we hope that politicians in Washington will finally begin listening to the trained medical professionals we entrust with our lives yet have ignored when it comes to the reduction of injury and death related to firearms.

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