Following a spate of mass shootings this year and widespread gun violence, many around the United States have grown increasingly concerned about lawmakers' refusal to take concerted action on gun control. This lack of action has prompted others to step up to the plate. On Tuesday, the American Medical Association revealed it's backing gun control proposals with a "new sense of urgency." The organization referred to gun violence as a disease which is profoundly impacting American society.
The American Medical Association (AMA) announced its support for several new gun control measures during its yearly policymaking meeting in Chicago. As the Associated Press reported, the organization voted to adopt a host of gun control proposals for which it will seek to advocate. These proposals include banning assault weapons, raising the legal purchase and possession age for firearms to 21, and ending legal loopholes that allow people found guilty of domestic violence to purchase or own guns, among others.
As Forbes reported, Dr. David O. Barbe, the AMA's outgoing president, gave a speech during the policymaking meeting, in which he highlighted the public health toll of gun violence and noted the urgent need for gun control measures. As Barbe described,
Gun violence in America is a public health crisis ... 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.
As the Associated Press (AP) described, the AMA has supported various gun control measures in the past, including background checks and assault weapons bans, among other initiatives. However, Forbes noted that members said that the number of gun control proposals discussed at this year's meeting was "unprecedented" — and that this intensive discussion was spurred by recent gun violence. Indeed, as Barbe described (as reported by the AP):
[This year's violence] spurred a new sense of urgency ... while Congress fails to act ... It has been frustrating that we have seen so little action from either state or federal legislators. The most important audience for our message right now is our legislators, and second most important is the public, because sometimes it requires public pressure on the legislators.
The AP also indicated that, during their discussion about gun control measures, the American Medical Association's members noted that 2016 data indicates that there were almost 40,000 deaths by gun in the United States that year. The data also revealed around 111,000 injuries. Moreover, gun deaths and injuries are recently on the rise.
In addition to threatening lives, gun violence also has enormous financial consequences, particularly when it comes to paying for health care related to gunshot injuries. A 2017 study from the Health Affairs journal revealed that, between 2006 and 2014, the annual cost of gun violence in the United States was approximately $45 billion each year. This number factored in inpatient medical bills as well as the cost of missed work.
As Forbes described, the AMA's endorsement of new gun control initiatives could certainly have an impact on the midterm elections in Nov. 2018. As the outlet explained, historically the AMA has had substantial lobbying influence on legislators. Its new gun control initiatives could help influence which legislators support these endeavors and/or which legislators are elected in November.
Overall, it is clear that the American Medical Association is increasingly exasperated by the lack of government accountability on gun control. It remains to be seen how strongly the AMA's latest support for various gun control measures will influence lawmakers' actions and their electoral prospects.