Guns and why doctors should partner with the National Rifle Association

Is there anything that we physicians can and should be doing to help with the huge problem of gun violence in America?

We all know it is nuts to sell guns and ammo to nuts, yet as a country we do it every day.

We all know that, in contrast to rifles and shotguns, the only moving targets for hand guns are people; that the Congress and president in this century legislated that any size of ammo magazine and speed of gun firing was OK; that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most effective lobby since Cleopatra; and that the current version of the Supremes by John Roberts has determined that individual Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms.

Some of you may remember that on June 10, 1992, the JAMA and all the AMA specialty journals focused on violence in America, and Chick Koop and I called it a “public health emergency.”

The AMA published a compendium of 422 pages of its journals’ articles on violence. We wrote that the right to own or operate a firearm should be similar to the right to own or operate an automobile.

We proposed that the firearm owner or operator must meet these specific criteria:

  1. Be of a certain age and physical/mental condition.
  2. Be required to demonstrate knowledge and skill in proper use of that firearm.
  3. Be monitored in the firearm’s use and
  4. Forfeit the right to own or operate the firearm if these conditions are abrogated.

Back then the CDC was doing big time research on violence as a public health issue.

Then the politics changed, and the far right put a halt to almost all of those efforts.

Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

Yet, if a person wishes to inflict violence upon many others in a short time, bare hands, baseball bats, most poisons, stilettos, garrotes, even machetes, are far less efficient tools of killing than are guns, especially automatics and semi-automatics.

So what could American physicians do now?

Psychiatrists, what motivates so many Americans, in contrast to the people of most other developed countries, to own and use guns?

Gun rights are such a deeply held belief of so many in the American culture, and the gun lobby “owns” most of the politicians in both parties.

Taking a different approach, could it now be time for organized medicine, on behalf of the health of the public, to partner with the National Rifle Association to try to remove much of the hazard from the American gun scene?

Think about it. The AMA and the NRA working together to do good.

If you have a better idea, especially you gun-totin’ docs, let us hear it.

George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more health policy news.

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