The American Medical Association (AMA) declared gun violence in America a public health crisis after the events at Pulse nightclub in 2016. Frustrated by little action from lawmakers, delegates to the AMA Annual Meeting that took place earlier this month seized on this sense of urgency and passed numerous resolutions that bolstered the AMA’s already strong policy on gun violence prevention, ranging from banning bump stocks to opposing concealed carry reciprocity legislation.
“People are dying of gun violence in our homes, churches, schools, on street corners and at public gatherings, and it’s important that lawmakers, policy leaders and advocates on all sides seek common ground to address this public health crisis,” said AMA Immediate Past President David O. Barbe, MD. “In emergency rooms across the country, the carnage of gun violence has become a too routine experience. Every day, physicians are treating suicide victims, victims of domestic partner violence, and men and women simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we urge lawmakers to act.”
AMA members cited U.S. government data showing deaths by gun almost 40,000 in 2016, including suicides, and nearly 111,000 gun injuries, compared with U.S. deaths from diabetes that totaled almost 80,000 in 2016; Alzheimer's, 111,000; and lung disease, 155,000. Cancer (600,000) and heart disease (634,000) were the leading causes of death in the U.S. in 2016.
Delegates adopted the following policies regarding guns:
Advocating for schools as gun-free zones
The AMA will advocate for schools to remain gun-free zones — with the exception of school-sanctioned activities and professional law enforcement officials. The AMA also opposes requirements or incentives for teachers to carry weapons in schools.
Calling for ban on sale of assault-type weapons, high-capacity magazines
New policy calls for banning the sale and ownership of all assault-type weapons, bump stocks and related devices, high capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets. This policy also requires that firearm owners are licensed, complete a safety course and register all firearms.
Expanding domestic violence restraining orders to include dating partners
The AMA supports laws that would prevent anyone who is under a domestic violence restraining order or convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes — including stalking — from purchasing or owning a firearm. Additionally, the policy supports closing the loophole that currently exists in federal law to extend domestic violence restraining orders to include protection for dating partners.
Removing firearms from high-risk individuals
Delegates voted to support gun violence restraining orders that would allow family members, intimate partners, household members, and law enforcement personnel to petition a court to remove firearms from individuals who pose a high or imminent risk for violence. The new policy also requires states to have protocols or processes in place for requiring the removal of firearms by prohibited people, and requiring gun violence restraining orders to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Supporting increase in legal age of purchasing ammunition and firearms from 18 to 21
While federal law limits the purchase of handguns to age 21 and purchase of long guns to age 18 from a licensed firearms dealer, unlicensed persons may sell a long gun to a person of any age and handguns to individuals 18 and older; and federal law and laws in 38 states allow 18- to 20-year-olds to legally possess handguns from unlicensed sellers, such as online retailers and sellers at gun shows. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have laws that impose a minimum age of 21 for all handgun sales. Dick’s Sporting Goods, L.L. Bean and Walmart have recently changed their age of firearm purchase to 21.
Opposing federal legislation permitting “concealed carry reciprocity” across state lines
Such a law would require all states to recognize concealed carry permits granted by other states and allow citizens with concealed carry permits in one state to carry guns into states that have stricter laws. The law could endanger law enforcement agents, victims of domestic violence, and the public. AMA has supported the right of local jurisdictions to enact firearm regulations that are stricter than those that exist in state statutes, but concealed carry laws lower standards to the lowest common denominator.
Supporting gun buyback programs in order to reduce the number of circulating, unwanted firearms
The AMA is supporting the concept of gun buyback programs as well as research to determine the effectiveness of the program in reducing firearm injuries and deaths.
Over the past two decades, the AMA has developed numerous additional policy recommendations to reduce gun violence, including: