AMA calls gun violence a public health crisis

American Medical Association: Gun Violence Is a Public Health Crisis
American Medical Association: Gun Violence Is a Public Health Crisis

The American Medical Association for the first time on Tuesday adopted a policy of calling gun violence a "public health crisis," and voiced its support for gun control measures, including waiting periods and background checks for all gun purchases.

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.

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"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," AMA president Dr. Steven Stack said in a statement.

"Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries," he added.

Stack pointed out that this research would help officials understand the problems associated with gun violence and would determine how to reduce the number of firearm deaths and injuries. "An epidemiological analysis of gun violence 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," he said.

Federal law doesn't technically outlaw the CDC from studying gun violence, but prohibits the agency from using federal dollars to adocate 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 AMA's annoucement came two days after the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub that injured 53 people and killed 50, including the gunman.

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"Gun violence is a public health issue," Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and the Dean of Boston University's school of public health, said in a video statement. "It's time for us to collect better data so we can understand the consequences of gun violence, and understand what we can do to mitigate the consequences."

According to Galea the mass shooting in Orlando is the 133rd mass shooting in the U.S. this year. FBI officials define a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot.

But beyond these incidents, the AMA reported that gun violence had reportedly killed 6,000 people in the U.S. this year. This count includes suicides, which in the past have comprised two-third of gun deaths.

The NRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but gun rights groups have in the past called the public health approach a thinly veiled attempt at gun control. In previous interviews with U.S. News, the NRA has said that doctors shouldn't be asking patients about gun ownership because they are not gun safety experts, and have said conversations about gun violence fall under the purview of law enforcement.

The AMA joins the American College of Physicians in its position, which has been calling gun violence an epidemic since 1995.