Doctors monitor illegal guns, better data to tackle gun deaths

Immediately after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, the AMA declared gun violence a public health crisis in the United States. And in the years that followed, the crisis worsened.

In the first nine months of this year alone, there were nearly 33,000 gun-related deaths in the country, including more than 15,000 homicides, murders and unintentional deaths, notes an American Academy resolution Medicine and Rehabilitation presented at the 2022 WADA Interim Meeting.

WADA has a broad policy that calls for the expansion of research and mitigation strategies. Yet, “these entities have failed to produce timely research, recommendations, and mitigation strategies to address the national public health crisis of firearm injuries,” the resolution states.

To help refocus the public and national conversation on the national public health crisis of firearm injuries, the AMA’s House of Delegates passed a new policy to “support research examining major sources of firearms.” held illegally, as well as possible methods to reduce their proliferation in the United States. states.”

Delegates also asked WADA to:

  • Work with key stakeholders, including but not limited to gun manufacturers, gun advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies, public health agencies, Firearm injury victim advocacy groups, health care providers, and state and federal government agencies provide health recommendations to mitigate the effects of gun violence.
  • Engage with key stakeholders and advocate for national public forums – including, but not limited to, online sites, national radio, and televised or in-person town hall meetings – that bring together key stakeholders and members of the general public to focus on finding common ground, non-partisan measures to mitigate the effects of firearms in our public health crisis related to firearm injuries.

Earlier this week, during the interim meeting, the House of Delegates asked WADA to establish a task force focused on gun violence prevention.

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A lack of funding and research has hampered health care’s ability to apply evidence-based approaches to reduce firearm injuries and deaths among American children and youth, according to an American Academy resolution of Pediatrics that was presented at the interim meeting.

And while funds have been allocated in all 50 states to provide data to the national violent death reporting system — an important first step — the resolution as submitted noted that a real-time surveillance system gunshot wounds is necessary. The resolution also called for the repeal of the 2003 Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits the publication of gun tracing data for research purposes.

Delegates asked WADA to advocate:

  • Improvements in the quality, comparability and timeliness of firearm injury and death data.
  • Repeal of laws that prohibit the publication of firearm tracing data for research purposes.

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In a separate action, delegates addressed the issue of gun violence and suicide among older people.

While suicide is often an impulsive act that lends itself to intervention, one of the barriers to addressing this crisis is that physicians are often reluctant to discuss and counsel patients about gun safety, says a resolution of the AMA Senior Physicians Section.

To raise awareness and address this issue, delegates asked WADA to:

  • Develop and disseminate a formal educational program to enable clinicians to effectively address suicides with an emphasis on older adults and other high-risk populations.
  • Develop with other interested organizations a toolkit that clinicians can use to respond to extreme risk protection orders in their respective states.
  • Partner with other groups interested in gun safety to raise awareness of the extent of suicide among seniors and other high-risk populations, and the interventions available for suicide prevention.

Learn more with the AMA Ed Hub™ course, “The Role of the Physician in Promoting Gun Safety.”

Check out other highlights from the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting.

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