Sunday, June 19, 2016

AMA, led by Ky. doctor, says gun violence is public-health crisis; calls for research, background checks, waiting periods for all guns

The American Medical Association, led by a Kentucky emergency-room physician, declared gun violence a public-health crisis last week and endorsed waiting periods an background checks for purchases of all firearms, not just handguns.

"The AMA, the country's largest doctor group, also vowed to lobby Congress to overturn a decades-old ban on gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," two days after the Orlando shooting that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, reports Kimberly Leonard of U.S. News and World Report. "The AMA joins the American College of Physicians in its position, which has been calling gun violence an epidemic since 1995."

Dr. Steven Stack
AMA President Steven Stack of Lexington said the research "is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms. . . . With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public-health crisis of gun violence."

Leonard notes, "Federal law doesn't technically outlaw the CDC from studying gun violence, but prohibits the agency from using federal dollars to advocate or promote gun control. Though President Barack Obama lifted the research ban through executive order nearly three years ago, Congress has blocked funding for these studies."

The National Rifle Association has called the public-health approach a back-door path to more gun control, Leonard writes, and "has said that doctors shouldn't be asking patients about gun ownership because they are not gun safety experts."

"Who will Congress listen to now: the healers or the merchants of death?" Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen asked to start his Sunday column. "The AMA's stand is unlikely to change anyone’s mind about gun control. But it underscores the absurdity of Congress’ two-decade effort to block legitimate scientific research that could reduce gun deaths and injury."

Suicides accounted for about two-thirds of the 33,390 firearms deaths in the U.S. in 2014. The CDC "said 627 people were killed in Kentucky that year with firearms, a rate of 13.8 per 100,000 population, higher than the national average of 10.2," Eblen reports. He said research on gun violence could reduce those figures, just as research into auto accidents has reduced such fatalities.

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