CMA has strongly supported Congressional efforts to pass common sense gun reforms, and will continue to advocate for evidence-based policies to save lives, reduce gun violence and keep our children and communities safe.
Since 1975, more Americans have died from firearms than in all the wars in U.S. history going back to the American Revolution. Gun violence is a public health crisis, and as with other public health areas, evidence-based interventions are needed for reducing deaths and injuries.
Nearly 50,000 Americans are killed every year by firearms—including innocent children in their classrooms, worshipers in their churches and recently even physicians who have dedicated their lives to healing and treating these kinds of injuries. In fact, gun violence has become so prolific in our country, it often doesn’t even make the news.
Recommendations for Physicians
Physicians are in a unique position to assess risk, provide education and change behaviors related to firearm violence. CMA has long-standing policy recommendations for reducing firearm-related trauma, injury, and death.
In 2017, CMA convened the Firearm Violence Prevention Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), composed of physician experts to identify opportunities and resources that may aid physicians in addressing firearm violence as a public health issue. In addition to a policy statement, the TAC compiled the following ways for physicians to get involved:
Take the pledge. Make a commitment to ask your patients about firearms when, in your judgment, it is appropriate, and follow through with support and resources to keep patients safe. In 2019, California Assembly Bill 521 authorized three years of funding for the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis. Building on the prior work of the UC Davis What You Can Do Initiative, the BulletPoints Project gives clinicians the knowledge and tools they need to reduce the risk of firearm injury and death in their patients. Visit BulletPointsProject.org for more information on what you can do, as physicians, to help stop gun violence.
Educate yourself and your patients. Expanded education and training are needed to improve clinician familiarity with the benefits and risks of firearm ownership, safety practices, and communication with patients about firearm violence. There is a growing body of literature and resources available to initiate patient discussions and support patient education on firearm safety and storage, including best practices to reduce injuries, deaths and psychological trauma related to firearm use:
Support research. The suppression of firearm research has stripped federal and state funding for data surveillance, research and analysis, and prevented the advancement of evidence-based policies as benefiting other major public health issues. Discover the latest from the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.
Recognize warning signs and respond appropriately to patients with mental illness – they are at higher risk for suicide and to be a victim of violence, and access to firearms is associated with increased suicide risk.
Understand your legal obligations to report. Physicians should know their legal obligations for reporting specified medical conditions and the clinical interventions that might restrict a patient’s ability to own or possess a firearm.