It seems like eons ago when the medical profession found itself under direct assault by Gun-nut Nation exemplified by a 2011 Florida law that criminalized physicians who chose to counsel patients on the health risks of guns. This attempt to intimidate doctors, known as ‘Docs versus Glocks,’ was eventually thrown into the legal trash basket by the 11th Circuit, after which doctors became much more vocal about the need to join the campaign against gun violence that emerged following Sandy Hook.
The engagement of doctors in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement took a major step forward in 2015 with the publication of a manifesto ‘A Call for Action’ calling for more involvement by physicians, a document signed by 7 national health organizations, along with the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association. At the same time, many health organizations issued statements about gun violence, one of the most active organizations in this respect being the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP.)
Not only has the ACEP gone on record multiple times supporting various programs to reduce gun violence, but in 2013 the organization adopted a “Firearm Safety and Injury Prevention” policy that included including investigating socioeconomic and other risk factors that lead to firearm injury, promoting access to affordable mental health services and supporting universal background checks, among other recommendations.
It should not come as a surprise that ACEP would take the lead in gun violence medical advocacy. How could it be otherwise, given the fact that the organization represents physicians who, more than any other medical specialty, deal with gun injuries as a frequent part of their job. Not only are more than 75,000 people with bullet wounds transported into emergency medical facilities each year, but many ER doctors also find themselves counseling numerous patients suffering from mental distress who are often at high risk because they happen to own guns.
But before we give ACEP a collective pat on its organizational back, let me tell you something else about what this group is doing regarding gun violence, because what they are also doing is promoting gun violence in a cynical and self-serving way. What I am referring to is the fact that only 4 other medical organizations, including the AMA, donated more money in 2016 to Republican politicians, many of whom support pro-gun laws.
That’s right. In 2016 the ACEP gave political donations through its PAC to 128 House Republicans, many of whom also receive money from the NRA. Among these recipients was Joe Wilson from South Carolina, he’s the one who called President Obama a ‘liar’ from the House floor. After the Charleston church massacre, Wilson said he saw no real reason to make any changes to NICS. Another recipient of monies from both the NRA and the ACEP is Wilson’s South Carolina colleague, Jeff Duncan, who happens to be the sponsor of the bill to remove gun silencers from NFA controls. Want a third glowing example of NRA-ACEP largesse? Try David Joyce (R-OH) who says he’s a steadfast supporter of the 2nd Amendment because “we must ensure that all Americans are safe and secure from radical Islamic terrorists and other national security threats.”
The fact that a national organization representing physicians who have called for reducing gun violence takes the money they collect from these doctors (ACEP annual dues run $600+ a year) and gives this money to jerks like Wilson, Duncan and Joyce isn’t just a ‘mistake.’ It’s scandalous, downright offensive and should be stopped. The ACEP is not the only medical society that signed off on the 2015 manifesto but continues to give aid and comfort to the Congressional enemies of sensible initiatives to reduce violence from guns, but in terms of dollars, ACEP is by far the worst.
The ACEP membership to do the right thing and stop contributing this blood money right away. You don’t need to engage in an evidence-based, longitudinal study to know the difference between right and wrong.