As emergency physicians, we are the first and often the only physicians to see victims of firearm injury. We are the docs who are the first to manage the aftermath of a mass shooting. We are the ones most at risk of active shooters in our own hospitals, and we are the ones who have to handle the legal questions that come with a patient with violent tendencies who has been dropped off at our door by the police. We see both the immediate and long-term effects of these injuries, and of course, many
of us came to emergency medicine from prehospital or military backgrounds, where we had more immediate firsthand experience. Firearm injury is an issue that impacts all of us.
We see how it’s getting worse. More and more of us are joining the awful club of having had to treat a mass shooting. More and more of us have had family members or friends who have been injured. More and more emergency physicians are being hurt or killed, most tragically and notably with the shooting death of Tamara O’Neal, MD, outside her emergency department at Mercy Hospital in Chicago.
However, we also know that we don’t have to accept injury or disease outbreaks as a fait accompli. We have a long history of mobilizing, as emergency physicians, to identify and then reduce patterns of injury. Doing this work is nonpartisan; it’s based on science and great research. Through this public health approach, emergency medicine has been a critical leader in national and local efforts to reduce car crash deaths and child abuse, plus is leading the charge against opioid overdose deaths, human trafficking, and more.
Emergency medicine is also a leader in developing a public health approach to reduce firearm injuries. Through this approach, we can make a difference in the prevalence, severity, and long-term consequences of gunshot wounds across the country.
A short list of actions by ACEP includes:
- Six years of work by the ACEP Trauma & Injury Prevention Section to highlight the importance of addressing firearm injury as a public health problem
- Lectures on firearm injury prevention at ACEP17 and ACEP18
- A firearm injury prevention policy that was rewritten in 2013 and is currently being reevaluated by the Public Health & Injury Prevention Committee in addition to the original task force
- Completion of a Technical Advisory Group on emergency medicine–relevant firearm injury research, culminating in a publication in Annals of Emergency Medicine in 20161
- Active advocacy for federal funding and universal background checks, in accordance with ACEP’s firearm injury prevention policy
- Completion of two surveys of emergency physicians’ firearm injury prevention practices and beliefs through the EM-PRN network
- Donating $20,000 to the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a not-for-profit organization founded and led by emergency physicians
Additionally, emergency physicians have led national non-ACEP-affiliated efforts to change the trajectory of this epidemic. A short and incomplete list includes: