June 14, 2023 – The American Medical Association (AMA) gathered physician and medical student leaders from all corners of medicine at its Annual Meeting this week to shape guiding policies on emerging health care topics.
The AMA’s House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, residents, and medical students representing every state and medical specialty. Working in a democratic process, delegates create a national physician consensus on emerging issues.
The policies adopted by the House of Delegates to address firearm violence include:
Strengthening Background Checks and Preventing Sales of Multiple Firearms to Same Purchaser Within Five Days
The AMA adopted new policy aimed at combatting the public health crisis of firearm violence. Under the new policy, the AMA will advocate for federal and state policies that prevent inheriting, gifting, or transferring ownership of firearms without adhering to all federal and state requirements for background checks, waiting periods, and licensure requirements. The AMA will also advocate for federal and state policies to prevent the sale of multiple firearms to the same purchaser within five business days and to implement background checks for ammunition purchases.
“As mass shootings in the U.S. continue at an alarming rate, it is critical that we further strengthen policies aimed at preventing firearm violence. No individual should be able to purchase an arsenal of firearms in a short period of time or buy ammunition without a background check.” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D. “We will continue to advocate for laws and policies that reduce the risk of firearm violence and keep our communities safe.”
Supporting Medical Professionals in Utilizing Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Prevent Firearm Violence Among High-risk Patients
Currently, more than 20 states have enacted extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws that allow law enforcement, family or household members, and/or intimate partners to petition the court to temporarily remove firearms from high-risk individuals through due process. Few jurisdictions include medical professionals as parties who can initiate ERPOs. Given that, the AMA adopted policy aimed at including medical professionals as parties who are able to ask a court to prevent someone at imminent risk of harm to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms when there is a high or imminent risk for violence.
The policy supports AMA’s work with relevant parties to update medical curricula and physician training on how to approach conversations with patients and families and to how to utilize ERPOs.
“Physicians are encouraged to ask patients at risk of firearm injury about access to firearms during routine patient visits. Allowing physicians to petition the courts when they encounter a patient at risk of firearm violence is necessary and could help prevent further firearm-related tragedies,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.
Today’s policy builds on AMA policy adopted in 2022 which called for AMA to develop a toolkit to improve physician use of ERPOs.
Calling on Social Media Companies to Remove Posts Glorifying Firearm Violence
Delegates also adopted policy aimed at helping curb the proliferation of social media posts that promote firearm violence. Under the new policy, the AMA will call on all social media sites to vigorously and aggressively remove posts that contain videos, photographs, and written online comments encouraging and glorifying the use of firearms.
To help end the ongoing and devastating effects of firearm violence in the U.S., the AMA also strongly recommends that social media sites continuously update and monitor their algorithms to detect and eliminate any information that discusses and displays firearms and firearm violence in a way that encourages viewers to act violently.
“Misinformation and disinformation continue to spread through social media largely unchecked. With more than 48,000 Americans dying and tens of thousands more seriously injured from firearms every year, we can’t sit by while firearm violence is glorified through social media sites. We implore social media sites to take immediate action to limit these dangerous posts, people’s lives depend on it,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.
The AMA previously urged the CEOs of six leading social media and e-commerce companies to remain vigilant against the proliferation of both purposeful disinformation and unintentional misinformation on their platforms. The AMA will continue to leverage its communications channels and network to provide physicians with the most relevant, fact-based information and resources to share with their patients and continue to support policies to combat the further spread of misinformation and disinformation harmful to public health.
About the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises, and driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.