We also need more funding toward research. We’re all aware that Congress restricted funding in the late 1990s to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, preventing them from doing adequate studies on firearm injury prevention. These are difficult things to study, but there have been well-designed studies on this issue that have given us some answers; there just haven’t been enough. If you look at the last 40 years, there have been 65 cases of rabies in this country, yet the NIH has funded 89 studies about rabies. In the meantime, in the last 40 years, there have been over 4 million people killed by firearms, and the NIH has funded only three studies on firearm injury prevention. That’s sad.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 35 – No 07 – July 2016
I’ve seen different statistics than those Marco refers to. You have to look at homicides and suicides to see the whole picture. Obviously, medical treatment of firearm injuries has gotten better, though most firearm injuries are still fatal. I think there’s some evidence that shows things are getting better, but all you have to do is open up the newspaper to know that we still have a major problem in this country. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, there has been an average of one school shooting a week in this country, and the number of mass shootings has also increased. There were 33,000 deaths from firearms last year. Eighty-seven people will die today from firearms, including five kids. What Congress has done, and what our communities have done since Sandy Hook, has been inadequate at best.
KK: Do you think we need stricter statutes and more regulation of firearm ownership?
AF: I think we could be doing a lot more. I’ve mentioned that we need to reinstitute the research funding that was cut by Congress so that we can understand the issue better. I do think there are some commonsense firearm regulations that can be put into place, like expanded background checks. Most people agree with that. I think that we could be doing more when it comes to regulating gun sellers and making certain that when someone purchases a firearm he or she is safe to own it. With regard to background checks, 40 percent of firearms transactions don’t include a background check, and you can go online and buy a gun without one. There are a lot of things we need to do as a society to address this issue (eg, addressing mental health), and we just haven’t taken any definitive steps.