AMA to Congress: Lift Ban on CDC Gun Research


June 14, 2016

CHICAGO, Illinois — Moved to action by the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, that has claimed at least 49 lives, the AMA House of Delegates today voted overwhelmingly to urge Congress to lift its ban on gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A Republican-controlled Congress voted in 1996 to forbid CDC studies that would advocate or promote gun control. A proposal to overturn the ban died in a House subcommittee in July 2015.

A resolution to declare gun violence a public health crisis and lobby for lifting the research ban was introduced at the annual AMA meeting shortly after the Orlando massacre in the early morning hours of June 12. The AMA has characterized gun violence as a public health threat before, but the stance on CDC research is new. The AMA joins other medical societies such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics in opposing the Congressional ban.

"We...have a disease on our shore," American Academy of Family Physicians President Wanda Filer, MD, told fellow delegates. "It's called gun violence. We need to know more about it."

A number of AMA delegates during the last 2 days, some visibly shaken, recounted the endless traffic of gunshot victims in their emergency departments and operating rooms. One emergency medicine physician from California described trying to resuscitate two people shot in a murder–suicide within minutes of starting his shift. "I thought to myself, 'This is just a normal day in the ED,' " he said.

"This has got to stop. This has got to stop."

The resolution encountered only a smattering of opposition. Kilby Osborn, a medical student alternate delegate and an ex-Marine from Indiana, said yesterday that what happened in Orlando was less about gun violence and more about "a terrorist attack by an individual who hates our way of life." Osborn said the sponsors of the AMA measure "are taking what happened and using it for political advantage."

The dominant sentiment in the House of Delegates was sadness and anger about the endless string of mass shootings in the country. "We are the shame of the world," said Mike Miller, MD, a delegate from Wisconsin.

"Now is the time to act," added Joshua Cohen, MD, from New York. "We will not stand by and watch our fellow Americans be slaughtered by the thousands."

The House of Delegates observed two moments on silence in honor of the shooting victims in Orlando: one on June 12 and one today.

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