The president of the American Medical Association (AMA) expressed support over the weekend for proposals that would expand the group's advocacy for new gun control laws.
Dr. David O. Barbe, president of the group, told Forbes that he believes gun violence is a matter of public health and that wide-ranging policies are needed to address it.
Recent Stories in Issues
"Gun violence in America today is a public health crisis, one that requires a comprehensive and far-reaching solution," he said. "This is an important issue, as demonstrated by an unprecedented number of gun violence prevention proposals that physicians have submitted for discussion during the upcoming AMA policy-making meeting."
Forbes reported that the AMA's House of Delegates will consider adopting a number of gun control positions at their upcoming annual meeting June 9 through June 13. Banning so-called "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazines as well as banning ownership of any firearms by adults under 21-years-old are among the positions being considered. Barbe said he believes AMA members want to use their "considerable political muscle" to pass new gun control measures.
"It is clear that today, more than ever before, America's physicians want to lend their voice and their considerable political muscle to force lawmakers to examine this urgent health crisis and implement evidenced-based solutions."
The group previously adopted the position that "uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public's health" and all gun sales, even the sale of used guns between private parties, should require a waiting period and FBI background check. They expanded the later policy during their 2016 annual meeting.
"The shooting in Orlando is a horrific reminder of the public health crisis of gun violence rippling across the United States," then-president Dr. Steven J. Stack said in a statement. "Mass killers have used AR-15s, rifles, and handguns, and today we strengthened our policy on background checks and waiting periods to cover them all with the goal of keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous people."
The AMA, which promotes itself as a public health advocacy organization, has increasingly supported liberal causes. Last week, the group sided with Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, and slammed the Trump administration's plan to partially defund abortion providers.
"The AMA objects strongly to the administration's plan to withhold federal family planning funding from Planned Parenthood and other entities," Barbe said in a statement. "We are particularly alarmed about government interference with the patient-physician relationship in the exam room."
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, an organization of pro-gun physicians, called the Barbe's latest comments "intensification of the AMA's annual virtue signaling extravaganza." Dr. Robert B. Young, a practicing psychiatrist and editor of the group's website, told the Washington Free Beacon the AMA has been siding with liberal causes for decades and is one of the reasons his group was founded in the first place.
"Jumping aboard progressive bandwagons is the main tactic left to the AMA to wield influence, since it now includes no more than 25 percent of America's physicians as members, even though it claims to represent us all," Young said in a post on the group's website. "Its leadership has left most physicians behind by focusing on politics more than medicine and undercutting physician autonomy by supporting Obamacare. In this case, they continue denigrating the vast number of Second Amendment respecting health care providers by continuing to back gun control—as if anything short of full civilian disarmament would substantially reduce ‘gun violence,' let alone affect violent crime."
The National Rifle Association said the AMA should focus on "If the AMA’s policy-making House of Delegates would like to concentrate on a public health crisis they should focus on the 250,000 deaths due to medical errors, the medical community’s complicity in the opioid crisis that takes 42,000 lives per year or the mental health crisis that results in nearly 50,000 suicides per year," Lars Daleseide, a spokesperson for the group's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The AMA did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE 10:39 A.M., Thursday 31 May: This piece has been updated to include comment from the National Rifle Association.