Physicians advocate for stronger gun-violence prevention

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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, physicians and their respective societies have shared passionate opinions about their roles in reducing gun violence, with perspective articles appearing in several major medical journals.

On New Year's Day, editors of the Annals of Family Medicine called for physicians to make a resolution to put more time and effort into addressing the public health threat of gun violence.

"Just as physicians worked to safeguard public health by promoting smoking bans in public places, we should draw on similar motivations and strategies to promote sensible, evidence-based laws to decrease the harms associated with gun violence," they wrote.

In addressing the common link between mental illness and gun violence, the journal's Editor-in-Chief Christine Laine and colleagues said the nation needs better policies to prevent mentally ill persons from obtaining guns, as well as making it easier for them to get treatment.

In a separate commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, Boston pediatricians Judith S. Palfrey and Sean Palfrey made similar pleas. In addition to advocating tightened gun-control laws, the authors called on policymakers to remove federal restrictions on gun-violence research and invest more resources into treating identified mental illnesses in children. Physicians, they noted, should continue to recommend that children's exposure to violent television and video games be kept to a minimum.

A recent Medpage Today poll asking whether physicians should routinely ask patients about gun ownership and safety drew about 54,000 votes--10 times the publication's previous record. The majority of respondents (92 percent) answered "yes" to the question.

To learn more:
- read the editorial from the Annals of Family Medicine
- see the story from Medpage Today
- see the editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine

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