The AAFP and six peer medical organizations have renewed their pressure on Congress to protect patients by reforming U.S. firearm policy.
"As you return from recess, we write to urge you to enact three critical and common-sense policies already under consideration in Congress that would create major progress in reducing the toll of firearm violence on the patients for whom our members care," the organization said in a Sept. 5 letter(3 page PDF) to House and Senate leaders.
The letter was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The AAFP's co-signatories were the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the AMA, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Public Health Association.
The correspondence repeated an August call to action the groups sent following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
In a Leader Voices Blog post at the time, Academy President John Cullen, M.D., of Valdez, Alaska, personalized that message, writing: "Like most family physicians, I have a history of treating people affected by gun violence. And like most physicians, my life has been personally affected by the loss of someone I was close to."
At the end of August, a gunman killed seven people and injured more than 20 near Odessa, Texas. Near-daily gun violence(www.massshootingtracker.org) continues outside the national spotlight.
To address the crisis, said the signatories of the September letter, Congress should pass legislation that
- includes $50 million for public health research on firearm morbidity and mortality prevention in 2020;
- requires universal background checks, such as H.R. 8(www.congress.gov) (a milestone bill that passed the House this past winter with Academy support but awaits Senate consideration); and
- supports extreme-risk protection orders (such as H.R. 1236(www.congress.gov) and S. 506(www.congress.gov)).
Background checks are "a public-health intervention that works," the letter said, reminding officials that such policy has "prevented over 3 million people legally prohibited from possessing a firearm from obtaining one" since 1994. Such policy would be even more effective, the groups noted, if it closed loopholes affecting private sales and transfers of firearms -- as the bipartisan H.R. 8 does.
Similarly, the letter said, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019 (H.R. 1236, S. 506) has bipartisan support in the House. It would provide grants to states and other jurisdictions that have enacted ERPO laws, "using a thoughtful approach that does not stigmatize individuals with mental illness."
"Congress has an important opportunity to take decisive action that can prevent both mass shootings and the daily firearm violence that traumatize communities," the letter concluded. "We call on you to enact these important policies upon returning from recess."
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