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American Doctors Demand Changes to Gun Laws

A demonstrator chant slogans during a march and rally against gun violence, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A demonstrator chant slogans during a march and rally against gun violence, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
American Doctors Demand Changes to Gun Laws
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The American Medical Association, or AMA, has called for a ban on military style firearms and expressed opposition to arming school teachers.

The group made the statement at its yearly policymaking meeting. It called gun violence in the United States a public health crisis.

The AMA is the largest group of doctors and medical students in the United States.

Dr. Megan Ranney is an emergency-medicine specialist at Brown University. She said at the gathering, “We as physicians are the witnesses to the human toll of this disease.”

AMA delegates voted to approve several gun-related proposals presented by doctors groups that are part of the AMA's membership. They agreed to:

  • Support any bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21 years of age.
  • Support laws that would require documented permission and safety classes for gun owners and registration of all firearms.
  • Press for legislation that would permit relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home.
  • Support better training for physicians in how to recognize patients at risk for suicide.
  • Push for more restrictive laws on the purchase or possession of guns by people found guilty of violence, including expanding such measures to cover stalkers.

There are gun owners and supporters among AMA members. A doctor from Montana told delegates about learning to shoot as part of the education program at her middle school. But a large majority of members supported banning military style firearms. The group approved the measure with 446 votes in favor, 99 against.

“There's a place to start and this should be it,” said Dr. Jim Hinsdale, just before the vote. He is a trauma surgeon in San Jose, California.

Gun violence is not a new issue for the AMA. It has supported past efforts to ban military style firearms and declared gun violence a public health crisis. It has also supported background checks, waiting periods and more financial support for mental health services. And it has pressed for more research on gun violence prevention.

AMA president David Barbe described as "extraordinary" the number of related measures on this year's agenda. He said that recent violence, including the Florida school shooting and the Las Vegas attack, created, in his words, “a new sense of urgency ... while Congress fails to act.”

Dr. Barbe, who was speaking on his final day as president, said, “The most important audience for our message right now is our legislators, and second most important is the public, because sometimes it requires public pressure on the legislators.”

The 243,000-member AMA has more influence with politicians and the public than other doctor groups.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately answer email and telephone requests for comment about the doctors' votes.

AMA members pointed to U.S. government data that show about 40,000 died and 111,000 were injured from guns in 2016. Cases of each have been rising in recent years.

By comparison, U.S. deaths from diabetes in 2016 totaled almost 80,000; Alzheimer's, 111,000; and lung disease, 155,000. The leading killers in 2016 were heart disease, with 634,000 deaths, and cancer, about 600,000.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver adapted this Associated Press report for VOA Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in this Story

physiciann. medical doctor

tolln. very bad effect

stalkern. a person who closely follows and watches another person for a long period of time in a way that is threatening, dangerous, etc.​

trauma surgeonn. a doctor who operates on severely injured people

agendan. a list of things to be considered or done​

audience n. the people who watch, read, or listen to something​