Washington, June 17, 2016 -- The American College of Physicians (ACP) yesterday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging them to swiftly pass legislation that would ensure the safety of Americans by reducing the threat of injury or death from firearms. The letter also noted that victims in the recent mass shooting in Orlando may have been targeted as a hate crime because of their sexual orientation, affirming the need for the United States to also take a stand against all forms of discrimination against LGBT persons.
In light of the recent shooting in Orlando, and the rising number of mass shootings, the letter stated that this is a serious public health issue that needs to be addressed by Congress. This week Congress has been discussing the issue, however, they have yet to come to a consensus on legislation.
The letter asked Congress "to lift restrictions on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Justice, that studies the effect of violence and unintentional gun-related injury on public health and safety."
"These types of studies are critical to making headway on this problem," said Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, FACP, president of ACP. "Congressional support of research, and funding for research, is key to making sure that we're enacting evidence-based policies that will help to prevent the loss of 32,000 American lives that are lost each year to gun violence."
The letter also encouraged support for measures that would:
- Require criminal background checks for all firearms purchases. Currently purchases at gun shows and private sales between individuals do not require any checks. The only way to ensure that prohibited purchasers are prevented from acquiring firearms is to make background checks universal for all purchases or transfers of ownership.
- Have strong penalties for persons who unlawfully purchase firearms for others who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. A third of illegally diverted firearms were associated with these types of "straw purchases," and a survey of federally licensed firearms dealers in 2011 found that 67.3 percent of respondents reported potential straw purchases.
- Limit future sales and possession of firearms that have features designed to increase their rapid killing capacity, commonly called assault weapons, along with a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
"ACP believes that the public health risks are too great for Congress to delay the adoption of these reasonable measures to reduce the threat of gun violence," concluded Dr. Damle. "It is time for Congress to seize this moment to help ensure the safety of our patients and citizens."
This week, ACP also sent out a joint statement with other physician groups calling for the same types of measures. That statement included a video of physician leaders calling attention to the issue of gun violence and vowing to do their part to find solutions.
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.