Newswise — WASHINGTON, DC (June 23, 2022): Today, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) voiced its support for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938), introduced in the Senate earlier this week. The legislation presents several actionable and common-sense measures for reducing death and disability caused by firearm violence, which is now a national public health crisis.  ACS supports all provisions of the bill; the legislation will make firearm ownership safer in the U.S., thereby making our communities safer too. 

S. 2938 is the first significant legislation in nearly 30 years to address firearm violence in America. This legislation is long overdue as firearm violence has dramatically increased and is now a major cause of death and serious injury in the U.S., particularly among children and adolescents ages 1 to 19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, which show it as the leading cause of death for this age group.

Specifically, the bill calls for implementing state-level “red flag” laws by temporarily removing firearms from those who are deemed an immediate threat to harming themselves or others and it permits authorities to check the juvenile and mental health records of intended purchasers younger than 21 for up to 10 business days. S.2938 also provides stronger protection to domestic violence victims, calls for federally licensing more firearm sellers, and ends straw purchases to circumvent the transfer of firearms to those who cannot make legal purchases. The proposed legislation also provides for $15 billion in new federal funding to bolster mental health programs and school security upgrades, which will have an impact on preventing further tragedy.

“These are all actionable items that can be put into place quickly to help us address the public health crisis of firearms violence. Surgeons are on the front lines treating these seriously injured patients every single day and we see how this violence devastates families and communities. As a result, the surgical community remains unwilling to wait for another tragedy to befall another community when we know there’s a way to save lives today,” said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS.  “We applaud Senate leaders for setting forth this viable and reasonable plan. We fully support the bill as a good first step to address this public health crisis. We believe that more can be done to make our communities safer, and we will continue to advocate for bipartisan, common-sense solutions rooted in our recommendations.” 

The ACS Committee on Trauma (COT) has recommended implementation of several of the provisions found in S.2938 through its Firearm Strategy Team (FAST), which released 13 recommendations to address firearm violence in 2018. FAST used a consensus-based approach among trauma surgeons who treat patients with serious firearm injuries. Many of these trauma surgeons own firearms themselves, providing a unique perspective that helped inform the team’s recommendations about making firearm ownership safer while still protecting one’s right to own a firearm. (View FAST recommendations.)

In terms of S. 2938, FAST recommendations are aligned or partially aligned with these issues:

  • red flag laws (mandatory reporting and risk mitigation)
  • obtaining ownership (robust background checks for private sales and transfers of firearms)
  • firearm registration (updates the definition of who is considered a dealer of firearms to clarify the law and put high volume sellers on notice that they should obtain a federal license)

“While we think this legislation is a great start, there’s more important work that needs to be done,” said Eileen Bulger, MD, FACS, Medical Director of ACS Trauma Programs, and one of the FAST recommendations authors. “We encourage congressional leaders to consider the remaining FAST recommendations for future legislation. In addition, we want to be sure that as a nation, we empower the medical community across all health care settings to act in the best interests of their patients in a variety of palpable ways. These paths include counseling patients on safe firearm storage; screening patients at risk for firearm injury or death; and engaging the community in addressing the social determinants of violence through hospitals and healthcare systems.”

“We also advocate for increased research funding, particularly at the federal level that will address, among many things, the root causes of violence and identify social determinants of violence for firearm injury victims. While firearm violence is often linked to mental health issues, it is but one issue that must be addressed. Many factors contribute to the firearms violence we see increasing in our communities every day,” said Jeffrey Kerby, MD, FACS, Chair of the ACS Committee on Trauma. “Programs like the ACS ISAVE [Improving Social Determinants to Attenuate Violence] make concrete recommendations to address underlying factors that contribute to escalating community violence. We will continue to advocate for comprehensive solutions to stem the tide of violence and prevent further tragedies.”    

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The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 84,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. "FACS" designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.