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    This is why gun violence is a public health problem


    ME: What sense do you get from ACP members as to the importance of reducing gun violence?

    JE: When we came out with our 2015 joint position paper, there was a bit of pushback because so many of our members own and enjoy having guns as part of their hobbies. But as members looked into this further, they came to realize we were not speaking out against guns, but rather firearm violence. And it’s very difficult to find a doctor that would be opposed to that position.

    And College members, like I believe the public in general, have reached a point where there’s just greater concern about firearm violence. Not necessarily owning guns, but firearm violence. And in whose hands should those guns be? People with substance abuse, alcohol, serious depression—they should not be allowed to have guns.

    One of the points the College makes is that these mass shootings, as horrific as they are, are really just a part of the problem. There are 33,000 deaths per year and twice that number of injuries.


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    ME: How might lessons we’ve learned from public health issues in the past—smoking, vaccinations, seat belts—be used in reducing firearms violence?

    JE: Take tobacco, for example. It has to be approached through many channels, starting with the primary care physician. She or he should be screening for tobacco use and should be knowledgeable about tobacco cessation. The physician should have at his or her fingertips up-to-date information about treating tobacco abuse, what programs, what medications are most helpful.

    Likewise, there’s a real role for the government to play, for example, with the rules that you can’t smoke in public buildings. And you can’t sell cigarettes to teenagers. Then there’s a public process that has really begun to frown on public use, and pharmacies saying we’re not going to be selling this anymore. There’s real momentum. That’s the kind of approach—public health, physician-based, legislative-based and public opinion—that we need to make some progress on gun violence.


    Do you think gun violence is a public health issue? What role, if any, do you think physicians have in reducing gun violence? Tell us at [email protected].


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