If you had legal questions about gun laws and the Second Amendment, consulting the American Bar Association makes sense. When you have legal questions, you ask an attorney, right?
But while the topic of personal weapons may begin in a legal environment, it too often ends in a medical one. An emergency room. With disabling injuries, if not deaths.
That’s why eight different medical organizations joined hands with the ABA, producing an editorial on the subject in the August 24 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. In this much-documented “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States” editorial, the directors of these nine groups offer their voices on the subject, and offer these seven suggestions:
1) Background Checks
Purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer requires a background check of the customer. The gun show loophole allows 6.6 million – about 40 percent of all gun sales – to skip that requirement, however. That’s why background checks should be “a universal requirement for all gun purchases or transfers of ownership,” the authors argue.
2) Physician “Gag Laws”
Doctors can tell patients about the dangers of drugs and the hazards of risky hobbies. When it comes to guns, though, federal and state laws require they keep their mouths shut. “(P)hysicians must be allowed to speak freely to their patients in a nonjudgmental manner about firearms,” the organizations say.
3) Mental Health
While persons with court-documented mental disorders may be restricted from gun purchases, that process can take too long and miss too many, the groups say in their editorial. The fact that two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. result from suicide supports their argument, too. As a result, they say, persons with record of mental disorders or substance abuse of particular relevance should be prevented from owning a weapon.
4) Reporting Laws
Demonstrating professional objectivity, the organizations recommend a limitation to their previous suggestion regarding mental health. Simply put, doctor-patient confidentiality should not be violated in its use, they acknowledge, and anyone who is affected by this restriction should be guaranteed opportunity to restore their right to gun ownership.
5) Assault Weapons
This one’s a no-brainer, and because of its supporting evidence that continues to grow in tragic events. Say the authors:
We believe that private ownership of military style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines represents a grave danger to the public, as several recent mass shooting incidents in the United States have demonstrated.
About 30 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began studies on the impact of guns on health and safety in the United States. NRA-fed Republicans put a stop to that research in 1996, though, removing all CDC budgeting for those projects. While President Obama tried to restore the funding in a 2014 budget proposal, Republicans blocked it again.
The funding for such projects must now resume, the editorial says. CDC and other relevant offices “should receive adequate funding to study the effect of gun violence and unintentional gun-related injury on public health and safety.”
7) Constitutionality Of These Recommendations
This subject is where the ABA steps in. While the public may be confused about rights to gun ownership, U.S. courts aren’t – and haven’t been, either. As established in the Supreme Court’s Dist. of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008, the Second Amendment is not unlimited. Laws can be passed to restrict that right to reasonable terms that recognize public safety as priority, including blocking the sale of assault weapons.
The organizations whose representatives composed the letter are: American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association.
Featured image by M&R Glasgow via Flickr (modified with public domain image)