• Public Affairs

    landing-header-public-affairs_37748_17213
  • Medical Organizations Urge Congress to Act on Gun Violence

    January 8, 2013

    The Honorable Harry Reid 
    Majority Leader 
    U.S. Senate 
    S-221 U.S. Capitol 
    Washington, DC 20510
     The Honorable Mitch McConnell
    Minority Leader
    U.S. Senate
    S-230 U.S. Capitol
    Washington, DC 20510

     

    Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell:

    The undersigned medical organizations, together representing the vast majority of practicing physicians and medical students in the United States, share the nation’s grief and sadness over the recent tragic school shootings in Connecticut. As physicians, we see first-hand the devastating consequences of gun violence to victims and their families. We offer our experience and expertise in finding workable, common sense solutions to reduce the epidemic of gun violence—indeed the overall culture of violence—in America. We also urge the nation to strengthen its commitment and resources to comprehensive access to mental health services, including screening, prevention, and treatment.

    The investigation into the Connecticut shootings is still continuing, and the issues surrounding such violence are often complex and can vary significantly from case to case. Strategies for preventing gun-related tragedies must also be complex and carefully considered. The relatively easy access to the increased firepower of assault weapons, semi-automatic firearms, high-capacity magazines, and high-velocity ammunition heightens the risk of multiple gunshot wounds and severe penetrating trauma, resulting in more critical injuries and deaths. Even for those who manage to survive gun violence involving these weapons, the severity and lasting impact of their wounds, disabilities and treatment leads to devastating consequences for families affected and society, and contributes to high medical costs for treatment and recovery. Renewing and strengthening the assault weapons ban, including banning high-capacity magazines, would be a step in the right direction.

    Many of the deaths and injuries resulting from firearms are preventable. More resources are needed for safety education programs that promote more responsible use and storage of firearms. Physicians need to be able to have frank discussions with their patients and parents of patients about firearm safety issues and risks to help them safeguard their families from accidents. While the overwhelming majority of patients with mental illness are not violent, physicians and other health professionals must be trained to respond to those who have a mental illness that might make them more prone to commit violence. Funding needs to be available for increased research on violence prevention in general, and on the epidemiology of gun-related injuries and deaths in particular, as well as to implement available evidence-based interventions. Of equal importance is providing sufficient access to mental health services. While we strongly supported the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, unfortunately, the promise of better access to psychiatric treatment will not be a reality absent requisite federal and state funding. This effort should be combined with an education campaign that reduces the stigma of seeking mental health services.

    Newtown, Connecticut has now been added to the sad litany of recent mass shootings, including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Arizona, and Aurora. As we come together as a nation to mourn the most recent victims of senseless gun violence, we must make a real and lasting commitment to work together on meaningful solutions to prevent future tragedies. We stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration to make progress in protecting our communities, especially our children, from this epidemic of violence.

    Sincerely,

    American Medical Association
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    American Academy of Pain Medicine
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine
    American College of Emergency Physicians
    American College of Mohs Surgery
    American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
    American College of Osteopathic Internists
    American College of Phlebology
    American College of Physicians
    American College of Preventive Medicine
    American College of Radiology
    American College of Surgeons
    American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    American Geriatrics Society
    American Osteopathic Association
    American Psychiatric Association
    American Society for Clinical Pathology
    American Society of Plastic Surgeons
    Association of American Medical Colleges
    College of American Pathologists
    North American Spine Society
    Renal Physicians Association
    Society of Critical Care Medicine
    The Society of Thoracic Surgeons
    California Medical Association
    Colorado Medical Society
    Connecticut State Medical Society
    Medical Society of Delaware
    Medical Society of the District of Columbia
    Illinois State Medical Society
    Maine Medical Association
    MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society
    Massachusetts Medical Society
    Michigan State Medical Society
    Minnesota Medical Association
    Nebraska Medical Association
    Nevada State Medical Association
    Medical Society of New Jersey
    New Mexico Medical Society
    Oklahoma State Medical Association
    Oregon Medical Association
    Rhode Island Medical Society
    South Dakota State Medical Association
    Tennessee Medical Association
    Texas Medical Association
    Vermont Medical Society
    Medical Society of Virginia
    Washington State Medical Association
    Wisconsin Medical Society