Editorial: Physicians are right to speak out on reducing gun violence
So the National Rifle Association wants to stifle free speech in order to protect the right to bear arms. Did the gun lobby not notice the First Amendment precedes the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution?
Last month, after the American College of Physicians updated its position paper on reducing firearm injuries and deaths in the U.S., an anonymous tweeter at the NRA warned the ACP's 154,000 members to "stay in their lane."
They are in their lane. It's the lane that leads to a well-constructed public health approach to curbing unnecessary gun violence in America.
Nothing in the ACP statement violates the Second Amendment, unless, of course, you believe the nation's founders intended to give every mentally deranged person (Sandy Hook, Parkland and Thousand Oaks), racist (Charleston), domestic abuser (Orlando, San Bernardino, Sutherland Springs), anti-Semite (Pittsburgh) and alcoholic gambler (Las Vegas) unlimited access to bump-stock-enhanced, semi-automatic weapons capable of mass slaughter in minutes.
Nor is the Second Amendment violated when physicians raise a public health alarm because 51% of the 45,000 suicides in the U.S. annually involve firearms.
While only 1 in 10 who attempt suicide succeed, those who use guns have an 83% success rate. The success ratio for those using knives, razor blades or drugs is under 2%.
Nor is the Second Amendment violated when those same physicians point out that 70% of the nation's 14,514 homicides in 2016 involved guns. The U.S. homicide rate, by the way, is three to six times higher than most other advanced industrial countries.
Nor is the Second Amendment violated when those same physicians note that 57% of gun-toting mass murderers (defined as four or more deaths in a single event) included their spouse or intimate partner among their victims. In 18% of those cases, the perpetrator had already been convicted of domestic violence. That's exactly what happened at a Chicago hospital in a shooting that took four lives: a physician, pharmacy resident and police officer, along with the gunman.
It was heartening to see physicians who labor in the nation's emergency rooms immediately push back against the NRA's laughable tweet, which also contained the lie that "the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves." The paper's opening paragraphs noted that 52 organizations have endorsed its findings including the American Bar Association, consumer organizations and groups representing the families of gun violence victims.
Using the hashtags #ThisIsMyLane and #ThisIsOurLane, physicians from across the country weighed in with heart-rending stories, pictures of blood-spattered scrubs and operating floors, and defiance. "The @NRA thinks health care providers should shut up about guns. I didn't when I treated a kid who reminded me of my son. I didn't after Orlando. I won't now. I won't ever," tweeted Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston.
"The medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out on prevention of firearm-related injuries and deaths, just as physicians have spoken out on other public health issues," the paper opened. In calling for "appropriate regulation," the ACP acknowledged "that any such regulations must be consistent with the Supreme Court ruling establishing that individual ownership of firearms is a constitutional right."
Nothing in the Second Amendment prevents requiring criminal background checks for all firearm purchases; closing the gun show loophole; reinstituting the ban on assault weapons; prohibiting convicted spouse abusers or the mentally defective from obtaining guns; or imposing other common-sense gun control measures. In recent polls, more than 4 in 5 Americans back requiring universal background checks and closing loopholes.
While it's hard to imagine the Senate passing or this president signing gun control legislation, the Democratic-controlled House next year can hold hearings and hammer out a comprehensive strategy for lowering the gun violence plaguing America. It should also insist that any funding bill remove the 1996 Dickey amendment, which bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from gun control advocacy and reduced its budget by the amount previously spent studying gun violence. The federal government has not funded any research on the topic since.
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