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Physicians: Growing Gun Violence Epidemic Must Be Addressed

Lori Shaull/Flickr
Each of the four most deadly mass shootings this year have left at least 10 people dead.

After a rash of mass shootings, physicians across the country are stepping up their efforts to combat gun violence. 

The American College of Physicians, the country's largest medical specialty organization, says the failure to enact meaningful gun control legislation undermines the country and its health care system's foundational values. 
Dr. Melissa Hagman, governor of the ACP chapter in Idaho, says she's had difficult conversations with patients about firearms. 

She says gun violence is a public health issue and should be thought of as an epidemic.

"Mass shootings, individual shootings, people who lose their lives due to domestic violence where there's a weapon involved," she points out. "If 'epidemic' gets people's attention, I think it's the appropriate word because it just seems like something that our country is too great to be having this many deaths needlessly due to firearms."

Each of the four most deadly mass shootings this year have left at least 10 people dead. 

The American College of Physicians recommends laws that prohibit people with a history of domestic violence from buying or possessing firearms; extreme risk prevention orders that allow families to petition courts for the removal of a family member's firearms; and a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons. 

Opponents of these proposals say they violate Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Hagman says it's important not to conflate people who commit violence with firearms with those who simply feel strongly about a person's ability to have access and carry guns.

"None of them that I have ever spoken to have ever wanted anyone to be harmed needlessly," she stresses. "So I think there is common ground for people to continue these discussions and to work towards legislation and other ways to keep people safer than they currently are."

The ACP hopes there will be a shift in the narrative on guns and also has developed policy recently, recognizing that hate crimes are a major public health issue.