Gun violence is an ever-growing concern in the United States, and there’s no question that emergency physicians are at the front line for treating its victims. But how far should emergency medicine go in advocating for or against gun control?
ACEP Now asked two physicians with opposing views for their opinions on the matter. The following is a summary of their conversation.
Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, chief medical officer–emergency medicine and chief risk officer for TeamHealth, executive director of the TeamHealth Patient Safety Organization, and medical editor-in-chief for ACEP Now
KK: Do you think that ACEP should be weighing in on Second Amendment rights?
AF: I think that we should be active on certain things that are specifically relevant to physicians. Regarding the Second Amendment, it’s the law of the land, and I don’t think there’s any debate about that. I think there are certain bills that are more relevant to our members, and those are the ones we should take a position on.
MC: Firearm injury is a very important topic in emergency medicine because we’re on the front lines. However, there are some facts that need to be addressed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top-four most common non-fatal accidents in 2007 were caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, other specified injuries, and poisonings. Non-fatal accidents and hospitalizations due to firearms were second from the bottom; only dog bites were lower.
As far as fatal accidents in 2007, only 0.5 percent were from accidental firearm fatalities and injuries. The top four that year were motor vehicle accidents, poisonings, falls, and otherwise unspecified, and at the very bottom were firearms. Since 1993, gun violence in this country has dramatically dropped, from 15.2 to 10.5 deaths by firearm per 100,000 people, in 2013. We cannot infringe on the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment. Andrew’s right about that.
KK: Andrew, Marco has given a bunch of stats and his perspective on things, and I want to give you an opportunity to respond. I assume that you don’t necessarily agree with everything he said.
AF: I don’t agree with everything he said. One thing I will respond to is the issue of mental health. I think it’s a big issue, and it’s important. I think more funding for mental health treatment is absolutely necessary in this discussion, and we do have to keep in mind that those individuals with a mental health diagnosis have actually been shown to be less likely involved in firearm violence, but we know that anyone who commits suicide is mentally ill.