American Medical Association devotes journal to gun control efforts

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Coming up on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’ll be speaking with one of the doctors involved in a new study that found increasing gun sales does not lead to increased crime rates; an important finding given the insistence of pro-gun control advocates and politicians that more guns equates to more crime.

This study is also a bit of an outlier in the medical community, where it’s far more common to see research papers promoting various gun control proposals. In fact, the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is dedicated to “gun violence”, with a heavy emphasis on gun control as a public health response.

Daily firearm violence and repeated mass shootings “serve as grim reminders that every person in the U.S. is potentially vulnerable to firearm violence,” JAMA Executive Editor Phil Fontanarosa, MD, MBA, and Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, wrote in an editorial about the issue.

With 11 viewpoint essays, two news articles, and a JAMA patient page, the issue spans the epidemiology of gun violence, the economic costs of that violence, regulatory actions, and strategies for promoting prevention and advancing research.

… Three viewpoint essays address legislative and regulatory actions, including a piece by Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, and Salma Abdalla, MBBS, DrPH, both of Boston University, on state-level policies, and an explainer by Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Lawrence Gostin, JD, of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on the Supreme Court decision New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which scrapped “good cause” requirements for concealed carry licenses.

Philip Cook, PhD, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and John Donohue, PhD, JD, of Stanford University in California, reported that while the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, it’s likely to face resistance in the Senate, leaving states to individually ban assault weapons or restrict large-capacity magazines.

Finally, three essays focus on strategies for preventing violence and for advancing firearm-related research. Joseph Sakran, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and colleagues called for establishing an “Office of National Violence Prevention” to identify opportunities to more proactively address all forms of violence and to oversee federal actions to “make meaningful change.”

While the most recent edition of JAMA offers pieces from well known anti-gun academics like Johns Hopkins’ Daniel Webster and Joseph Sakran, it’s bereft of any voices from the other side. About the closest the journal comes is an article by Dr. Marion Betz, a Colorado researcher who’s been working with gun store owners and firearms instructors on a network of privately owned places where gun owners can temporarily store their firearms if they need to temporarily remove guns from their home because of a mental health crisis or personal concerns. Betz’s piece focuses on gun-related suicides and “lethal means safety” measures; particularly programs like the one she’s involved with in Colorado.

Lethal means safety (LMS)—in which access to firearms and other lethal methods is reduced—is an evidence-based approach to reducing suicide risk.5 For firearms, this means removing firearms from the home or changing home storage so the individual with suicide risk does not have access to these weapons. Ideally, such reductions are voluntary and engage the at-risk person in short-term changes, which allows for the individual at risk to take ownership of their own health while still reducing risk. In this model, LMS is analogous to the concept of a “designated driver” to prevent motor vehicle injuries during a period when a driver is at increased risk of crash. LMS does not negate the need for other aspects of suicide prevention, such as assessment and mitigation of other physical health, mental health, or social risk factors. Rather, it reduces the odds that someone with suicidal intent or in crisis can lethally harm themself.

I appreciate Betz’s efforts (which are far more constitutionally sound than Extreme Risk Protection Orders), but the inclusion of this one piece promoting voluntary harm reduction strategies doesn’t counter the repeated calls for “universal background checks”, red flag laws, gun and magazine bans, and draconian licensing regimes for all those exercising their right to keep and bear arms that are found within the AMA’s most recent journal.

We know that the medical community isn’t one of one mind when it comes to the issue of gun control, and a 2016 survey of doctors even found that a majority believe the American Medical Association shouldn’t take a stand on gun control, but the organization’s most recent publication shows that the AMA leadership is clearly willing to disregard those opinions in favor of those who believe doctors should be on the front lines of anti-gun activism.