Health and Science

American Medical Association says gun violence is a public health crisis

Doctors calling gun violence a 'very public health crisis'
Doctors calling gun violence a 'very public health crisis'

The massacre in Orlando spurred the American Medical Association on Tuesday to formally call gun violence "a very public health crisis," and say the organization will "actively lobby" Congress to end a funding ban on federal health research into the problem.

The move by the largest group of doctors in the United States, during a meeting in Chicago, came days after a gunman slaughtered 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday morning with a legally purchased .223-caliber Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle.

"With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence," said the AMA's president, Dr. Steven Stack.

"Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries."

A congressional ban on CDC research of gun violence actually was lifted by an executive order from President Barack Obama in early 2013, after the massacre of 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But Congress has since blocked funding for such research.

Stack said that "an epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms."

The AMA noted it has "numerous, long-standing policies that support increasing the safety of firearms and their use, and reducing and preventing firearm violence."

The group said it "recognizes that uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public's health inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths." The AMA has also supported legislation calling for a waiting period before purchasing any form of firearm in the U.S. and requiring background checks for all handgun purchasers.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the type of rifle used in the Orlando mass shooting.