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AAP, health groups call for action to prevent gun injuries, deaths :

August 8, 2019

The AAP and other health care groups are calling for swift action to reduce firearm injuries and deaths, as the country reels from two more mass shootings.

“In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from gun-related injuries. … We have an epidemic,” said AAP President Kyle E. Yasuda, M.D., FAAP. “This is why the six largest professional organizations in medicine representing 731,000 physicians are committed to finding solutions.”

Those groups — the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association — were joined by the American Public Health Association in authoring an article in Annals of Internal Medicine.

They note that of the nearly 40,000 firearm-related deaths in 2017, about 60% were suicides, 37% were homicides, 1% were legal interventions and 1% were unintentional.

“Across the United States, physicians have daily, firsthand experience with the devastating consequences of firearm-related injury, disability, and death,” they wrote.“We witness the impact of these events not only on our patients, but also on their families and communities.”

While mass shootings are comparatively smaller in number, they take a significant toll as the nation has seen most recently in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 31 people were killed over the weekend.

“Mass shootings create a sense of vulnerability for everyone, that nowhere — no place of worship, no school, no store, no home, no public gathering place, no place of employment — is safe from becoming the venue of a mass shooting,” the groups wrote.

In addition to the annual deaths, thousands more are treated for nonfatal firearm injuries each year. The health groups laid out several policy recommendations to prevent these injuries and deaths. They recommend:

  • implementing comprehensive criminal background checks for all firearm purchases;
  • funding robust, nonpartisan research on firearm-related injuries and deaths;
  • expanding firearm prohibitions on those found guilty of domestic violence;
  • making it illegal to negligently store firearms where minors can access them;
  • improving access to mental health care while not prohibiting all people with a mental health condition or substance use disorder from purchasing firearms;
  • allowing families and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who may harm themselves or others while providing due process;
  • allowing all physicians to counsel patients on firearm safety; and
  • regulating high-capacity weapons and other firearm features that allow a rapid rate of fire.

“As with other public health crises, firearm-related injury and death are preventable,” the physicians wrote. “The medical profession has an obligation to advocate for changes to reduce the burden of firearm-related injuries and death on our patients, their families, our communities, our colleagues, and our society.”

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