ACS comments on the continual occurrence of U.S. firearm deaths and injuries

Aug. 8, 2019
Firearm violence continues to kill and seriously injure people in single-incident shootings every day in the U.S.

Two mass shootings in less than 24 hours on August 3-4, 2019, have ravaged the communities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and devastated our entire nation, stated the American College of Surgeons in a public statement. In response to these most recent tragedies, ACS expressed its ongoing grave concern about the death and destruction that these violent incidents continually inflict on American life.

Here is the statement verbatim:

In addition to a now decades-long string of mass shootings, firearm violence continues to kill and seriously injure people in single-incident shootings every day in the U.S., with nearly 40,000 firearm related deaths now happening annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We have lost patients, family members, and colleagues to firearm violence. As we remain on the frontlines treating seriously injured patients who arrive in trauma centers across the U.S., the ACS confirms its commitment to addressing this public health epidemic by applying a consensus-based approach to solve the problem, as well as addressing intimate partner violence.

The more than 45 medical and injury prevention organizations that participated in the historic Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention (February 10-11, 2019), have identified a path forward. Briefly summarized, actionable items that the summit attendees have agreed to address in a unified voice include the following:

- Recognize firearm injury as a U.S. public health crisis, and take a comprehensive public health and medical approach to address it

- Research this public health crisis using a disease model, and call for research funding at federal and philanthropic levels commensurate with the burden of the disease on society

- Engage firearm owners and communities at risk as stakeholders to develop firearm injury programs

- Empower the medical community across all health care settings to act in the best interests of their patients in a variety of palpable ways, such as counsel patients on safe firearm storage; screen patients at risk for firearm injury or death; and engage the community in addressing the social determinants of disease through hospitals and health care systems

- Commit professional stakeholder organizations to ensure that these statements lead to constructive actions for improving the health and well-being of our nation

Read the Summit proceedings published on the website of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons ahead of print.

To continue this work, the ACS has convened two multidisciplinary expert panels. The first was a Firearm Strategy Team, which engages expert firearm owners in developing recommendations for injury prevention. Their initial recommendations have been published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. The second team will focus on developing strategies to address the social determinants of health that contribute to interpersonal violence.

Furthermore, in 1991, ACS first issued a Statement on Firearm Injuries approved by its Board of Regents. Last revised in 2013, the current statement lays out ACS support for several important efforts, from enhancing mandatory background checks for the purchase of firearms to include gun shows and auctions, to ensuring that health care professionals can fulfill their role in preventing firearm injuries by health screening, patient counseling, and referral to mental health services for those with behavioral medical conditions.