Prevention of Gun Violence

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) supports primary prevention strategies to reduce the injuries and deaths associated with gun ownership and violence. The AAFP believes that federal and state policies can balance the right to own firearms with health, safety, and societal well-being. Appropriate gun violence research funding and public health surveillance are essential prevention strategies. Physicians play an important role in counseling patients about injury prevention, including safe storage practices. Counseling is important for raising awareness for at-risk patients, particularly for pediatric and adolescent patients, and individuals who experience suicidal ideation. Family physicians should oppose state “gag rule” bills that aim to discourage this important doctor-patient communication.

The federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) requires federally-licensed gun sellers to conduct background checks for each purchase. Background checks should ensure that those who have been convicted of a violent criminal offense and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or otherwise adjudicated to be suffering a severe mental condition posing a danger to others or themselves are not able to purchase firearms. Therefore, this background check requirement should be expanded to include the sale of firearms at gun shows, over the Internet, and in classified ads. Reasonable exceptions from the background check requirement should be allowed for sales between immediate family members if the seller does not know or have reasonable cause to believe that the purchaser is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm under federal, state, or local law. Physicians should be aware that women who are domestic violence victims are at high risk for potential gun violence.

Stronger gun trafficking and straw purchase laws could help reduce gun violence by discouraging those who are legally able to buy guns from diverted weapons to criminals and those living in jurisdictions with restrictive firearm ownership requirements. The AAFP also supports reinstating the ban on the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. (2013 COD) (2018 July BOD)