Steven E. Weinberger, MD; David B. Hoyt, MD; Hal C. Lawrence, III, MD; Saul Levin, MD, MPA; Douglas E. Henley, MD; Errol R. Alden, MD; Dean Wilkerson, JD, MBA; Georges C. Benjamin, MD; William C. Hubbard, JD
Acknowledgment: The authors thank Renee Butkus for her invaluable role in developing the document. They also thank the persons who reviewed and provided input about the document for their professional organization, including Robert Doherty, David W. Clark, Kate Connors, Judith C. Dolins, Kristin Kroeger Ptakowski, Dr. Debra A. Pinals, Dr. Marco Coppola, Dr. Alex Rosenau, and Dr. Sandra Schneider.
Disclosures: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M15-0337.
Requests for Single Reprints: Steven E. Weinberger, MD, American College of Physicians, 190 N. Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current Author Addresses: Dr. Weinberger: American College of Physicians, 190 N. Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
Dr. Hoyt: American College of Surgeons, 633 North Saint Clair Street, Chicago, IL 60611.
Dr. Lawrence: American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024.
Dr. Levin: American Psychiatric Association, 1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825, Arlington, VA 22209.
Dr. Henley: American Academy of Family Physicians, 11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway, Leawood, KS 66211.
Dr. Alden: American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007.
Mr. Wilkerson: American College of Emergency Physicians, 1125 Executive Circle, Irving, TX 75038.
Dr. Benjamin: American Public Health Association, 8001 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20001.
Mr. Hubbard: American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654.
Author Contributions: Conception and design: S.E. Weinberger, H.C. Lawrence, E.R. Alden.
Analysis and interpretation of the data: H.C. Lawrence, D. Wilkerson.
Drafting of the article: S.E. Weinberger, H.C. Lawrence, D.E. Henley, D. Wilkerson, G.C. Benjamin.
Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: S.E. Weinberger, D.B. Hoyt, H.C. Lawrence, S. Levin, E.R. Alden, D. Wilkerson, W.C. Hubbard.
Final approval of the article: S.E. Weinberger, D.B. Hoyt, H.C. Lawrence, S. Levin, D. Henley, E.R. Alden, D. Wilkerson, G.C. Benjamin, W.C. Hubbard.
Administrative, technical, or logistic support: S.E. Weinberger, H.C. Lawrence.
Collection and assembly of data: H.C. Lawrence, E.R. Alden.
Deaths and injuries related to firearms constitute a major public health problem in the United States. In response to firearm violence and other firearm-related injuries and deaths, an interdisciplinary, interprofessional group of leaders of 8 national health professional organizations and the American Bar Association, representing the official policy positions of their organizations, advocate a series of measures aimed at reducing the health and public health consequences of firearms. The specific recommendations include universal background checks of gun purchasers, elimination of physician “gag laws,” restricting the manufacture and sale of military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use, and research to support strategies for reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths. The health professional organizations also advocate for improved access to mental health services and avoidance of stigmatization of persons with mental and substance use disorders through blanket reporting laws. The American Bar Association, acting through its Standing Committee on Gun Violence, confirms that none of these recommendations conflict with the Second Amendment or previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Duane White, MD, FACP, SHM
April 14, 2015
Liberal academics push anti-gun agenda through medical societies.
The reason the CDC funding on guns was cut off in the 1990's was because the Center was using tax dollars to fund anti-gun agendas rather than unbiased research. This was clearly documented in the work of Dr. Timothy Wheeler in "Public Health Gun Control: A Brief History." In addition, the research on guns and crime has been done for decades by criminologists. That research has shown that as gun ownership increases and as states pass right to carry laws, the crime rate has gone down (John Lott, "More guns, less crime") It has not shown any "causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide" ("Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review" National Academies of Science.)
E. Michael Lewiecki, MD
New Mexico Clinical Research & Osteoporosis Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico
April 15, 2015
Guns and Suicide
Kudos to the American College of Physicians and other like-minded organizations for taking a strong, and long overdue, position on gun violence in America (1). Identification of gun violence as a public health issue is appropriate and necessary. The recommendations to reduce gun violence (background checks, elimination of physician “gag laws,” mental health care, sensible reporting laws, restrictions on assault weapons, and robust research) should be implemented. Hopefully this “call to action” will be followed by a more favorable response than what followed the position paper on the same topic published in this journal 20 years ago (2). However, there is more to be done. There is an aspect of gun violence that was briefly noted in the discussion of the new recommendations and accompanying editorial (3) that warrants further attention and action: suicide. About two-thirds of gun deaths in America are suicides; most suicides in this country are by gun; and suicide attempts with a gun are more likely to be fatal that attempts by other means, such as drug overdose. Despite the horrific personal and societal consequences of suicides, the majority of suicides go unnoticed except by family and close friends. Most suicides are impulsive in nature. That is, the act of suicide often occurs within minutes or hours of the first thought of suicide (4). If a gun is easily available to a vulnerable person, it may be used in an impulsive act that is likely to result in death. The impulsivity of suicide creates opportunities for suicide prevention through means restriction. There are robust empiric data demonstrating that limiting access to highly lethal means of suicide reduces suicides, not just by that method, but overall suicides as well (5). This concept applies not just to guns, but also to other means of suicide. This is why there are barriers to jumping off some bridges that are notorious for suicides. Fortunately, death by suicide is not the inevitable outcome of one who survives a suicide attempt- the vast majority of suicide attempters do not later die by suicide. Means restriction for suicide prevention includes a waiting period for purchasing guns (especially handguns), requirements for gun safety training, and safe gun storage in the home. Each of these provides a “cooling off” time for self-destructive impulses to pass. Means restriction can save lives and harms no one. This should be added to other strategies to reduce gun violence. References1. Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC, 3rd, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, et al. Firearm-related injury and death in the United States: a call to action from 8 health professional organizations and the american bar association. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):513-6.2. American College of Physicians. Preventing firearm violence: a public health imperative. Ann Intern Med. 1995;122(4):311-3.3. Taichman DB, Laine C, On behalf of the Annals editors. Reducing firearm-related harms: time for us to study and speak out. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):520-1.4. Deisenhammer EA, Ing CM, Strauss R, Kemmler G, Hinterhuber H, Weiss EM. The duration of the suicidal process: how much time is left for intervention between consideration and accomplishment of a suicide attempt? J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70(1):19-24.5. Florentine JB, Crane C. Suicide prevention by limiting access to methods: a review of theory and practice. Soc Sci Med. 2010;70(10):1626-32.
Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Nazareth Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
Onslaught of "Scientific" Support for Gun-Control Laws is Flawed
Key-fallacies in the tetrad of gun-related articles in the April 7th issue of the Annals emerge by following the faux-thread from “Original Research” to “Medicine and Public Issues,” and then from one historical editorial to another contemporary editorial. Their broad-brush conclusions fail to address key-concerns raised by the National Rifle Association’s “Institute for Legislative Action” regarding background-checks and assault-weaponry. Because the gravamen of this initiative is overtly intended to delimit individual-ownership of firearms, it is necessary to recall how, last year, I debunked a prodrome of paired-pieces in the Annals on gun-control [Anglemyer’s review and Hemenway’s editorial], showing they advocated preordained restrictions on home-use of firearms (1). Assumptions animating the 2014-dyad plague the 2015-quartet, comparable efforts to politicize awareness of residential violence.Anglemyer ignored concerns regarding selection-bias of articles invoked in his meta-analysis, instead endorsing Hemenway’s opinions. Hemenway recoiled at citation of his prior attack on the “disease” of gun violence [despite my specific reference and his book’s Wikipedia entry], and he cited his study correlating gun-homicide with higher gun-ownership and weaker gun-laws while disingenuously ignoring its five limitations that precluded claiming a cause-and-effect relationship. After he defended his sweeping conclusion by positing the predictable inability to “disprove a negative” [“the ecologic fallacy”], I concluded their weak responses validated my view that they’d violated the scientific method.Such loose-logic recurred, manifesting overt intent to invoke the suasive capacity of an amalgam of professional organizations. The Original Research yielded an intuitive conclusion [firearm-related hospitalization presages “violent victimization or crime perpetration”], but its recommendation [counseling] stopped short of necessitating an alteration of public policy (2). Thus, this and Anglemyer’s piece did not validate the multi-organization policy-statement (3), regardless of nomenclature employed [“Public Health” vs. “Public Safety”] per Cotton’s editorial and duly recognizing the stridency permeating the Editors’ editorial; absent the ability to cite “tight” data renders it to be solely a political position-paper, and NOT the inescapable outcome of rigorous research. Indeed, SCOTUS-Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia would claim that the joint-statement’s proposed limits would violate the Second Amendment, for he wrote of the right to “bear arms” for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense [D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)] while recognizing that hand-carried firearms are not akin to "rocket launchers" (4). Indeed, efforts to translate the consensus-statement into legislation would inter alia violate Federalism, as elucidated in a recently-published text by Utah Senator Mike Shumway Lee (5). References1. Sklaroff R. Guns, Suicide, and Homicide [Letter]. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(12):876-877. 2. Rowhani-Rahbar A, Zatzick D, Wang J, Mills BM, Simonetti JA, Fan MD, et al. Firearm-related hospitalization and risk for subsequent violent injury, death, or crime perpetration. A cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2015; 162:492-500.3. Weinberger S, Hoyt D, Lawrence H, Levin S, Henley D, Alden E, Wilkerson D, Benjamin G, Hubbard W. Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action From 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):492-500.4. Scalia opens door for gun control legislation, extends slow-burning debate. Accessed at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/07/29/scalia-opens-door-for-gun-control-legislation/ on April 9, 2015 (starting @ minute #7).5. Lee M. Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document. Sentinel (a member of the Penguin Random House Company), New York, New York (2015).
Steven E. Weinberger, MD
American College of Physicians
April 22, 2015
A Call to Action on Firearm-Related Injury and Death
TO THE EDITOR: We, representing the leadership of 8 health professional organizations and the American Bar Association, recently published an article stressing the importance of firearm-related injury and death as a major public health problem in the United States (1). We advocated measures to reduce the health and public health consequences of firearms, and the American Bar Association confirmed that the recommended measures do not conflict with either the Second Amendment or previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.
We have subsequently invited a wide variety of organizations to endorse the document. In addition to the organizations represented by the authors of the article, the following organizations are officially endorsing the article and its recommendations.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Neurology
American College of Chest Physicians
American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
American Medical Student Association
American Psychological Association
American Thoracic Society
Association of Chiefs and Leaders of General Internal Medicine
Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Children’s Defense Fund
Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care
National Board of Medical Examiners
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Medical Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Physicians Alliance
National Urban League
Sandy Hook Promise
Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Society of General Internal Medicine
Violence Policy Center
Additional organizations are awaiting review of the paper at their next Board of Directors meeting before they are able to provide formal endorsement.
Steven E. Weinberger, MD
David B. Hoyt, MD
Hal C. Lawrence III, MD
Saul Levin, MD, MPA
Douglas E. Henley, MD
Errol R. Alden, MD
Dean Wilkerson, JD, MBA
Georges C. Benjamin, MD
William C. Hubbard, JD
1. Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC III, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, Wilkerson D, Benjamin GC, Hubbard WC. Firearm-related injury and death in the United States: A call to action from 8 health professional organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015; 162:513-16.
May 27, 2015
Dr. Lewiecki raises a sensible recommendation for a waiting period after gun purchase to mitigate the risk of an impulsive suicide with a firearm, particularly a handgun. The recommendations in our recent “Call to Action” paper (1) were based on pre-existing policies of the organizations represented by the co-authors. Since the issue of a waiting period had not generally been addressed in the policies of these organizations, it was not included in the paper. However, the previously published position statement from the American College of Physicians (ACP) on firearm-related injury and death does note that “waiting periods may reduce the incidence of death by suicide, which account for nearly two thirds of firearm deaths…” (2). As a result, ACP formally recommended that a waiting period “should be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing preventable firearms-related deaths.”Dr. White’s suggestion that “CDC funding on guns was cut off in the 1990s because the Center was using tax dollars to fund anti-gun agendas rather than unbiased research” is the accusation that was made at the time by the NRA. As a result of the NRA’s lobbying power, The Washington Post noted that “Congress threatened to strip the agency’s funding. The CDC’s self-imposed ban dried up a powerful funding source and had a chilling effect felt far beyond the agency: Almost no one wanted to pay for gun violence studies, researchers say. Young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers” (3).Dr. White goes on to cite the work of Dr. Timothy Wheeler and John Lott, both of whom are strong gun rights advocates whose writings have consistently demonstrated a pro-gun bias. He then argues that the 2004 report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review (4) states that research “has not shown any ‘causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.’” Unfortunately, Dr. White has taken this statement out of context and has implied that absence of evidence is the same as evidence of absence, which is not the case. In fact, the report’s primary finding is that there has been a lack of research on firearms, and its consistent message is that more research needs to be conducted.I would like to stress that our “Call to Action” paper, developed by major organizations representing the medical, public health, and legal communities and endorsed so far by 30 additional organizations, was intended to recognize that measures need to be taken to reduce firearm-related injury and death. With 32,000 deaths annually in the United States as a result of firearm-related violence, suicides, and accidents, this is clearly a public health problem that needs to be addressed. The recommendations in the paper are reasonable approaches to mitigate this important public health problem that do not in any way restrict use of the appropriate types of firearms by those individuals who will use them for acceptable purposes.References:1. Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC III, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, Wilkerson D, Benjamin GC, Hubbard WC. Firearm-related injury and death in the United States: A call to action from 8 health professional organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015; 162:513-16.2. Butkus R, Doherty R, Daniel H, for the Health and Public Policy Committee of the American College of Physicians. Reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths in the United States: executive summary of a policy position paper from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160:858-860.3. Frankel TC. Why the CDC still isn’t researching gun violence, despite the ban being lifted two years ago. The Washington Post, January 14, 2015. Accessed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2015/01/14/why-the-cdc-still-isnt-researching-gun-violence-despite-the-ban-being-lifted-two-years-ago/ on May 23, 2015.4. Wellford CF, Pepper JV, Petrie CV, eds. Firearms and Violence. A Critical Review. Washington, DC, The National Academies Press, 2004.
Steven E. Weinberger, MD, MACP
November 14, 2015
Updated list of endorsers of Call to Action paper on Firearms Violence
TO THE EDITOR: In April, 2015, the American College of Physicians joined with 6 other medical specialty societies, plus the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, in publishing a “Call to Action” regarding firearms violence as a major public health problem needing to be addressed with sensible regulations that do not conflict with either the Second Amendment or with prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions (1). Since that time, many other organizations have endorsed the paper and its recommendations, and a list of endorsing organizations was previously published in August, 2015 (2). In the face of continuing tragic episodes of firearms violence, a total of 52 organizations listed below, including the 9 organizations that co-authored the original paper (denoted with an asterisk), have now formally endorsed the paper. The updated list as of November 14, 2015 includes the following organizations:1. Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry3. American Academy of Family Physicians*4. American Academy of Neurology5. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery6. American Academy of Pediatrics*7. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation8. American Bar Association*9. American College of Chest Physicians10. American College of Emergency Physicians*11. American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics12. American College of Nurse-Midwives13. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists*14. American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine15. American College of Physicians*16. American College of Preventive Medicine17. American College of Surgeons*18. American Geriatrics Society19. American Medical Student Association20. American Medical Women’s Association21. American Psychiatric Association*22. American Psychological Association23. American Public Health Association*24. American Society for Clinical Pathology25. American Society of Hematology26. American Thoracic Society27. Association of Chiefs and Leaders of General Internal Medicine28. Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence29. CeaseFirePA30. Children’s Defense Fund31. Council of Medical Specialty Societies32. Doctors for America33. Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care34. Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence35. National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners36. National Association of Social Workers37. National Board of Medical Examiners38. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence39. National Medical Association40. National Partnership for Women and Families41. National Physicians Alliance42. National Urban League43. Newtown Action Alliance44. Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative45. Physicians for Social Responsibility46. Prevention Institute47. Sandy Hook Promise48. Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine49. Society of Critical Care Medicine50. Society of General Internal Medicine51. Society of Thoracic Surgeons52. Violence Policy CenterSteven E. Weinberger, MDAmerican College of Physicians1. Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC 3rd, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, et al. Firearm-related injury and death in the United States: a call to action from 8 health professional organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015; 162:513-6. 2. Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, et al. Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2015;163:322-323. doi:10.7326/L15-5124
University of Louisville
October 2, 2016
A biased view by the Authors
While the knee-jerk reaction to see a problem of gun violence in America as a public health issue is an emotional one, as medical professionals you should not be letting such things influence your research. There is plenty of government published data, hard numbers, on firearms being used in self-defense overwhelmingly more than that in crime. There is no hard evidence that suicide by firearms is more or less successful than any other method, as my time at a Trauma 1 center hospital showed. The focus on 8000 homicides a year as the cause by 120 million good gun owners and not the 80% of those 8000 caused by gang members is irresponsible. Also, those suicides by firearm account for approximately half of all suicides. You should be including both views on the subject, not just your skewed one. I'd be happy to help with that am working on a publication on the subject. There is good data to show the benefit of guns in society, please use it. It is government provided, that is why there does not need to be any more done by public institutions that have a clear bias on the subject. This article had a lot of interest to me. I am a J.D candidate as well as a PhD candidate from a medical school, and both my mother and sister are physicians. My invitation to collaborate with you, or even give you a different side of the argument, is always open.
Weinberger SE, Hoyt DB, Lawrence HC, Levin S, Henley DE, Alden ER, et al. Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action From 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162:513-516. doi: 10.7326/M15-0337
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