New filings in an ongoing lawsuit by Philadelphia city officials against the state over the right to enact municipal gun control regulation sheds light on how healthcare stakeholders may tackle gun violence.
An amicus brief filed Monday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania by gun control advocates that included the city of Philadelphia and the organization CeaseFire Pennsylvania included statements from nine area physicians.
The brief included observations by Dr. Elizabeth Datner, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Philadelphia-based, Einstein Healthcare Network, which treated six of eight people who were victims of a mass shooting that took place Feb. 17.
"Dr. Datner believes physicians are a vital part of this conversation, because they are witnesses to the heavy toll gun violence inflicts on victims and their communities, and because physicians and other hospital staff endure the secondary trauma of treating the victims and consoling their families on a daily basis," the brief stated.
Philadelphia leaders announced last October they had filed a lawsuit against the commonwealth for the right to impose its own gun control measures in an effort to circumvent the state's firearm preemption law that has prevented municipalities from enacting their own gun ordinances for decades.
In 2008, an appellate court ruled state law preempted the city from passing seven gun control ordinances that would have among other things allowed only one handgun purchase a month, required buyers to get a local license, and mandated owners to report when their firearm was lost or stolen.
Nationally, more than 40 states have firearm preemption laws that prohibit municipalities from enacting gun ordinances, prompting more than a dozen legal challenges from cities since 2010.
Adam Garber, executive director for CeaseFirePA, said the inclusion of the healthcare professionals within the brief reflected the important health ramifications of allowing a city like Philadelphia to enact its own gun control measures. The city neared a record for firearm deaths and injuries in 2020 with nearly 500 people killed and more than 2,200 shot.
Healthcare providers have been more vocal in recent years in calling for lawmakers to take action on addressing gun violence. But the inclusion of health professionals in a legal brief for a lawsuit may mark a shift in strategy that has largely relied on public advocacy campaigns. Garber felt the move was a natural progression of their advocacy efforts.
"Doctors and nurses are on the front lines and see the constant damage of what we're talking about in our lawsuit," Garber said. "Having to highlight how this is destroying the lives of Pennsylvanians further emphasizes that the Legislature's failure to act is a violation of Pennsylvanians constitutional rights."