The American Academy of Pediatrics is renewing efforts to convince Congress to pass new gun control legislation, claiming that gun control is a public health issue, not a political one.
The AAP sent more than 100 pediatricians to Capitol Hill this month in support of mandatory background checks, waiting periods, handgun regulations, requirements for safe firearm storage, and bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
“We have to have a collectively louder voice,” Dr. Danielle Laraque, chair of the pediatrics department at Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital in Brooklyn, said in a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in D.C. “What we need is a call to action, to really look at how we can change public policy that is not often affected by data.”
The AAP hopes to convince a Congress which scrapped two gun control measures that would have expanded background checks in the wake of the fatal school shooting of 20 children ages six and seven in Newtown, Conn., in December.
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“Can we reframe the conversation so that it is about data, not about political beliefs?” Dr. Barbara Stoll of Emory University asked the meeting.
“Where there are more guns in the United States, there are more people dying,” said Dr. Matthew Miller of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There are more women dying, there are more men dying, and there are more children dying. We are talking about a lot of people who are dying when they live in places with a lot of guns and homes with guns.”
Pediatricians believe the numbers should speak for themselves.
“If you think that Congress has sort of been asleep … you are wrong,” said Dr. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University. “They have been doing a very good job of weakening the laws to make it easier for gun dealers to have the least amount of responsibility. They have made it harder to sue dealers and made it harder to access data on … which dealers are pumping out guns to criminals. They’ve made it almost impossible to prosecute a gun dealer.”
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The NRA has sponsored legislation that would ban pediatricians from asking parents about guns in their home, despite the fact that doctors routinely ask about safety issues like car seats and bicycle helmets.
The pro-gun group Second Amendent Foundation put together its own group of doctors: Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO). While the AAP has 60,000 doctors nationwide who voted overwhelming in support of gun control, DRGO has 1,400 doctors against it.
DRGO says the American Medical Association (with more than 200,000 members) and the AAP are simply “motivated by deep-seated prejudice against gun owners.”
“DRGO’s mission is to expose the poor medical scholarship—and the anti-gun bias behind it—held out as truth by organized medicine and medical journals,” says the DRGO website.