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Health Agencies Urge Better Gun Policies

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By Ayana Jones
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune

(NNPA) In response to the recent carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., various health organizations are calling for intervention in reducing firearms-related deaths and injuries.

“Since 1996, ACP has proposed policies to reduce deaths and injuries related to firearms, even as we must also acknowledge today that we are not doing enough. Over the next weeks and months, ACP will review the research on the most effective approaches to reduce firearms-related injuries and deaths, and then from this review, offer our ideas for a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach,” Dr. David L. Bronson, president of the American College of Physicians said in a statement.

“But we know already that there are policies that can help and should be acted upon immediately. Congress should start by banning the sale of assault-type weapons and high capacity (ammunition) magazines that are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible time. Weapons like the semi-automatic rifle used to kill 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

Bronson called for the public health system to be strengthened.

“The public health system must be strengthened and adequately funded to provide access to treatment, as long as it is needed, to people with mental health and substance abuse problems. It is especially urgent that the system provide affordable and effective treatment options for persons who may be at greater risk of inflicting violence on themselves and others, even as we recognize that most persons with mental health and substance abuse problems pose no danger,” said Bronson.

“Government must not impose any restrictions on physicians being able to counsel their patients on reducing injuries and deaths from firearms in the home, as some state legislatures have attempted to do.”

Dr. Rahn K. Bailey, president of the National Medical Association, expressed condolences on behalf of the organization of African American physicians and called for increased awareness and treatment of mental illness.

“There have been far too many senseless acts of domestic terrorism occurring in this country. After seeing the multiple images of sobbing schoolchildren, as well as distraught teachers and parents on the various news outlets this weekend, there is only one thing left to say; this has got to stop,” said Bailey, who is a psychiatrist.

Bailey noted that there is a need for acute psychiatric intervention for the victim’s family, the children who survived and for others affected.

“There is an ever present need to increase our awareness, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. This is necessary for the individual, but also for our communities as we have unfortunately witnessed; undiagnosed and untreated mental illness may lead to tragedy for us all,” said Bailey.

Bailey noted that although signs of mental illness appear in adolescence and early adulthood; mental illnesses are usually diagnosed in young men in their late teens to mid-twenties, as opposed to women which are more often diagnosed in their late 20′s. These signs or symptoms are not limited to a particular race or group in our society and we must recognize that mental illness is a medical condition.

“The stigma associated with mental illness delays adequate diagnosis and care and can have devastating effects on the country,” Bailey said.

The American College of Emergency Physicians, a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine, called on government at every level to increase investments in mental health resources and to ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity-magazines.

“Emergency physicians see the tragic consequences of gun violence every day,” said Dr. Andy Sama, president of ACEP.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and to everyone affected by this terrible event in Newtown. We deplore the improper use of firearms and support legislative action to decrease the threat to public safety resulting from the widespread availability of assault weapons. We also are urging policymakers to restore dedicated funding for firearms injury prevention research.”

CEP’s policy on firearm injury prevention endorses limiting the availability of firearms to those “whose ability to responsibly handle a weapon is assured.” It also calls for aggressive action to enforce current laws against illegal possession, purchase, sale or use of firearms.

“The nation’s emergency physicians call for increased funding for the development, evaluation and implementation of evidence-based programs and policies to reduce firearm related injury and death,” said Sama.

“We will fully support legislation that supports the principles of ACEP’s policy on firearms injury prevention.”

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