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ACP urges physicians to weigh in against gun violence


By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: December 31, 2012 - 5:00 pm ET
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Stating that physicians “are long overdue” to direct their expertise toward the public-health danger of gun violence, an editorial in the American College of Physicians' journal Annals of Internal Medicine (PDF) called on doctors to commit the same energy toward guns as they have to issues such as smoking, bicycle helmets, seatbelts and vaccinations.

“The relative silence of the health profession on matters related to gun violence is disturbing,” the editorial stated, adding that the Dec. 14 “shooting rampage” that left 28 people dead (including the gunman and his mother) “should motivate physicians to be vocal participants in discussions about U.S. gun policy.”

The editorial cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that firearms were used in 11,493 homicides and 18,735 suicides in 2009, and argued that there is evidence documenting the extent of the problem and that it's "the same type of evidence that drives clinical decisions."

It later noted how political factors have ended funding for the CDC's gun-violence research and how “thoughtful people” have declined to write about gun control over concerns it would lead to them losing public funding for their own research programs which were not directly gun related. “This situation raises the ominous possibility that our second amendment rights may be jeopardizing our first amendment rights,” the editorial stated.

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Previously, the American College of Emergency Physicians called for a ban on assault weapons and for more funding for mental health services, the American Academy of Family Physicians noted its opposition to private ownership of assault weapons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics in a Dec. 19 letter to President Barack Obama, called for banning assault weapons, improving access to mental health services, and for a “national dialogue” designed to reduce children's exposure to violence in their communities, environments and entertainment.

In the editorial, pediatricians are singled out for being leaders in the medical profession on this issue, and it calls on other doctors to get equally involved.

“Just as physicians worked to safeguard public health by promoting smoking bans in public places, we should draw on like motivations and similar strategies to promote sensible, evidence-based laws to decrease the harms associated with gun violence,” the editorial stated. “It is our responsibility to do so.”

The editorial is signed by Drs. Christine Laine, Annals editor in chief; Darren Taichman, executive deputy editor; Cynthia Mulrow, senior deputy editor; and deputy editors Michael Berkwits, Deborah Cotton and Sankey Williams.


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