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March 01, 2015

ABA joins with health care organizations in call to action to fight gun violence

ABA President William C. Hubbard recently announced that the ABA has joined with eight national health care organizations in a call to action to address the public health crisis of gun violence in the United States and to apply public health approaches to curtailing such violence.

The organizations are the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons and American Psychiatric Association.

“Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action from 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association,” issued Feb. 27, advocates a series of measures aimed at reducing firearm-related injuries and death, including the following recommendations:

• universal background checks of gun purchasers;

• elimination of physician “gag laws” that prohibit doctors form discussing a patient’s gun ownership or safe use of firearms, and warning of the dangers of firearms;

• restrictions on the manufacture and sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for civilian use;  and

• increased research to support the reduction of firearm-related injuries and death.

Two additional recommendations were offered by the health care organizations:

• improved access to mental health care without broadly prohibiting all people with mental or substance use disorders from purchasing firearms; and

• opposition to blanket reporting laws that require physicians to report patients with mental or substance use disorders because these laws may stigmatize patients and keep them from seeking treatment.

Earlier in February, the ABA Standing Committee on Gun Violence released Gun Violence Laws and the Second Amendment: A Report of the American Bar Association, which states that while the ABA respects all reasoned views in the matter of gun violence, the association rejects the notion that the Second Amendment, relating to the right to bear arms, bars efforts to stem gun violence.

Since 1965, the ABA House of Delegates has approved nearly 20 separate resolutions aimed at reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries.

In addition to citing the grave physical and emotional toll of gun violence, the report noted the overwhelming economic costs, which total $100 billion a year when direct and indirect medical, legal and societal costs are considered.

The report emphasized that the courts have held that the Second Amendment is consistent with a wide variety of laws to reduce gun-related deaths and injuries, and the association seeks to educate its members, as well as the public at large, about the meaning the Second Amendment.

According to Hubbard, a significant part of the ABA’s role in developing the call to action with the public health organizations was to “help make it clear that there are several ways to reduce gun violence that are constitutional and are safely within the law.”

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