After Texas mass shooting, healthcare leaders demand action

The American Medical Association and other health groups aren’t just calling for healing. They are urging lawmakers to take concrete steps to protect Americans from gun violence.

Following the killing of 19 children and two teachers in a Texas elementary school this week, healthcare organizations are demanding lawmakers to take action to curb gun violence.

The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which also left 17 others injured, came less than two weeks after a white supremacist killed 10 Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.

Healthcare leaders aren’t just calling for healing. They’re calling for specific action to reduce the chances of more mass shootings.

Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement Wednesday the Texas and New York mass shootings share the common thread of “​​too-easy access to firearms, inaction on wildly popular, common-sense safety measures like background checks, and countless lives lost or changed forever.”

Harmon cited the numerous policy proposals the AMA has pushed over the past 20 years, including background checks for all purchases, restrictions of assault weapons, and waiting periods before purchases. The AMA deemed firearm violence a public health crisis in 2016.

“Firearm injuries and deaths are preventable. And while the ideal time to act and find common-sense solutions and common ground might have been years ago, the best we can do now is act today,” Harmon said.

“We call on lawmakers, leaders and advocates to say enough is enough,” he said. “No more Americans should die of firearm violence. No more people should lose loved ones.”

More than 45,000 Americans die of gun violence each year. In 2020, firearms surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death among American children and teenagers for the first time in decades, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.  Gun deaths remained the leading cause of death among young people in 2021, The Post reported.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness said the Texas school shooting affects the mental health of all Americans. But the organization also pushed back against some narratives that point to mental illness as the prime reason behind the Texas tragedy and other mass shootings.

“Mental illness is not the problem,” NAMI said in a statement Wednesday. “It is incorrect and harmful to link mental illness and gun violence, which is often the case following a mass shooting.”

“Pointing to mental illness doesn’t get us closer as a nation to solving the problem and doing so leads to discrimination and stigma against those with mental illness — who are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. People across the globe live with mental illness, but only in the U.S. do we have an epidemic of senseless and tragic mass shootings,” NAMI said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement Wednesday calling for Congress to enact solutions such as ​​”background checks, investments in hospital-based and other community violence interventions, and other tools that so many Americans support.”

“These assaults once again vividly illustrate the all-too-familiar consequences of how gun violence continues to plague the nation,” the AAMC said. “They are also a reminder of how homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries with firearms take an overwhelming daily toll on our communities. These preventable tragedies will continue to be inevitable as long as lawmakers continue to choose inaction over reasonable protections to keep our children and our communities safe.”

Gillian Schmitz, president of the American College of Physicians, works in San Antonio, Texas, about 80 miles from Uvalde, and she and her husband are raising two school-age daughters. “This one hit a little more personally,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

“These mass shootings inflict unimaginable horror on our communities, friends, families and loved ones,” she said. “In the decade since Sandy Hook and only days since Buffalo, emergency physicians have once again absorbed the grief felt in communities nationwide.”

“We offer support to all emergency physicians, who bear witness to this epidemic as we treat victims of firearms-related violence,” Schmitz added. “We will continue our work to reduce gun violence through research, innovation and evidence-based practice.”

Moira Szilagyi, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted her organization has called for the federal government to invest in more research on gun violence prevention, along with other measures to reduce gun violence.

“There are things that we can do, but it will require a unified approach,” Szilagyi said in a statement.

“Despite past inaction, we must not assume there is no hope for change. We should not grow accustomed to these acts of gun violence,” she said. “We owe it to the children in that classroom in Uvalde and the many others who will go into their classrooms tomorrow to speak up for them, to not rest until we see real, meaningful, policy change. Until their lives are protected.”

Given the partisan divide in Congress, most political analysts see little chance of legislative remedies on gun control legislation or other measures that have wide public support.

As the AAMC noted in its statement, “Gun violence is not political. It is a public health crisis that must be addressed. How much more can our nation endure?”