Firearm Advocacy for Our Membership
Bindi Naik-Mathuria, MD, MPH,
Peter Masiakos MD, and
Marion Henry, MD, MPH
on behalf of the APSA/AAP Advocacy Committee
As the services and funerals of the victims of gun violence hold our sorrow and grief, we also mourn the senseless loss and celebrate their lives with their families and communities.
The gun violence problem in the United States is a complex issue requiring a multi-faceted public health approach. There is no single simple solution. However, there are many actions that we can support to start having effects. In 2013 and 2019, APSA issued statements on firearm injuries in children (1, 2). In alignment with those statements, we now make the following updated policy recommendations for our membership to support:
- Reinstate the ban on assault-style weapons. The 10-year assault weapon ban did have an effect on decreasing mass-shootings and mass shooting fatalities. Current bill is HR 1808/S736. The Uvalde shooting, and the majority of recent mass school shootings, have occurred with these weapons. We recommend supporting a new ban.
- Ban high capacity magazines. Support the Keep Americans Safe Act (HR 2510/S 1108). These magazines enable mass shooters to kill multiple people very quickly.
- Call for Universal Background checks. These are overwhelmingly supported by the US public. The house has already passed HR 8 aka the Bipartisan Background Checks Act 2021 but the Senate has not brought it forward. Call your senator TODAY to urge them to move this critical bill through the Senate. HR 1446 is also an Enhanced Background Checks Act.
- ERPO (extreme risk protection order) laws. These have been shown to have an overall impact on gun violence in the states where they are active. There are federal and state laws all working on these life-saving laws. (Federal laws: HR 2377, HR3480/S1819).
- Safe Storage Laws (Child Access Protection laws). These have been shown to reduce unintentional injuries, especially in states with the strongest laws. Examples are HR 130, HR 3509, S 1825 and Ethan’s Law (S190/HR 748). Ethan’s Law is supposed to go before a vote NEXT WEEK. Take action now and encourage your legislator to support this law.
- Handgun Trigger Safety Act. This act proposes technology that would make all handguns personalized and operable only by the owner (HR 1008).
- Prohibit 3D printed guns/”ghost guns” (HR4225 / S2319).
- Smart gun laws. These are state-specific and can be supported at that level.
- Federal funding for firearm injury prevention research. To further understand the complexities of the problem and the solutions that will have an impact requires research. After a 24-year ban on firearm injury prevention funding, two members of our society received grants in the first round of funding. Let us keep up this trend and make an impact in this field, just as we have led the way in injury prevention in other areas in the past. There is bi-partisan support for this, and strong support from the AAP and ACS. However, the area remains underfunded so we must use the momentum to push for it to be fully funded to the level approved ($5 billion was proposed in the ARP).
- Expansion of Mental Health resources. The AAP advocacy conference this year focused on the mental health crisis facing children. They lobbied for support of two bipartisan bills: the Supporting Children’s Mental Health Care Access Act (HR 7076/S3864) and the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act (HR 1803/S3628). The first would reauthorize the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program for five years. The latter provides funding that schools can use for mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
- Support of legal minimum purchase age of 21 years for all firearm types – in all states. Texas recently changed this to allow 18 year olds to purchase assault rifles, which directly contributed to the mass shooting in Uvalde.
- VOTE! Every child’s well-being depends on YOUR VOTE.
Legislative action alone is not enough to address this public-health crisis.
In addition to responsible firearm policies, APSA also supports:
- Selection of a permanent director to the ATF (already publicly supported by APSA). Without a permanent leader in this organization, enforcement and development of appropriate gun laws and policies are hindered.
- Promoting safe household firearm storage guidance with patients and families at all pediatric institutions. Up to a third of pediatric firearm injuries can be prevented with safe storage.
- Hospital-based violence intervention programs for pediatric trauma centers to provide trauma-informed care and link firearm victims with community resources for mental health support, academic integration, and avoidance of re-victimization.
We, the American Pediatric Surgical Association, believe that children have a right to be safe. They have a right to be safe at their schools, in their neighborhoods, on the playground, in the grocery store, at church and everywhere they go to learn, play and grow. We have the responsibility to protect our children and to take the actions and support the policies that will enable them to become healthy, thriving adults.
Here’s how to contact your Congresspeople:
- Nance ML, Krummel TM, Oldham KT; Trauma Committee of American Pediatric Surgical Association. Firearm injuries and children: a policy statement of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. J Am Coll Surg. 2013;217(5):940-946. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2013.07.381.
2. Petty JK, Henry MCW, Nance ML, Ford HR; APSA Board of Governors. Firearm Injuries and Children: Position Statement of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183058. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3058.