CHICAGO—Members of the American Medical Association on Tuesday voted to amend their policy on firearms, calling for a ban on the sale and ownership of all "assault-type weapons." With that resolution, the country's largest physician organization underscored its commitment to viewing gun violence as a public health emergency.
The ban wasn't the only gun control-related provision discussed at the AMA's House of Delegates annual meeting. The group's governing body took up the issue during a particularly bloody year. So far more than 6,300 people have died from gun violence in 2018, according to the not-for-profit site Gun Violence Archive.
The organization on Tuesday also voiced support for a prohibition on the sale of bump stocks—devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to fire fully automatic rounds. The AMA's House of Delegates also called for ending the sale and ownership of high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets.
The group also supports laws that would require all firearms to be registered, a ban on selling guns to people under the age of 21, a continued push to keep schools as gun-free zones, and called for tougher laws that would keep guns out of the hands of people found guilty of domestic violence.
Debate was contentious on those resolutions.
"I think our AMA should rise and take a stand that in order to protect yourself, you don't need an assault-type weapon," said Dr. Rose Berkun, a member of AMA's New York delegation who spoke in favor of the ban. "We're not trying to take guns away from people who own them and we're not against gun ownership, what we're saying here is that these weapons murder our children, murder people, murder our family members."
Delegates who were gun owners said they needed more time to review language they called vague within the resolution.
"I feel there is a better way to achieve these goals," said Dr. Arthur Palamara, a member of AMA's Florida delegation whose son was one of the first responders to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a mass shooting occurred there in February. "The reality is this is an extremely complex issue, and it is highly emotional. I believe it's going to require more solutions than just one simple alteration to an existing resolution."
The delegation voted overwhelmingly in favor—446-99—of the assault weapons resolution.
The AMA has tackled issues related to gun violence for years, most notably in 2016 when delegates declared gun violence a public health crisis in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. But this year it appeared that there was considerable desire to see the AMA take a stronger position on gun violence.