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Fed-up AMA doctors overwhelmingly support gun restrictions in sweeping votes

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Enlarge / Semi-automatic long guns for sale are on display at Texas Gun, one of the 6,700 firearm dealers located near the 2,000 miles long U.S.-Mexico border.Getty | Gilles Mingasson

The doctors are in—and frustrated, according to a series of votes at the American Medical Associations annual policymaking meeting wrapping up in Chicago.

The nations largest physicians group overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to adopt a series of aggressive stances on gun control and other policies aimed at curbing gun violence, according to the Associated Press. These include blanket support of assault weapon bans and disapproval of arming teachers.

The sweeping support for the measures comes amid a streak of school shootings, high rates of gun violence in inner cities, and soaring suicide rates (firearms are the most common method of suicide, accounting for roughly 49 percent, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

"We as physicians are the witnesses to the human toll of this disease," Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency-medicine specialist at Brown University, said at the meeting.

In 2016, the AMA declared gun violence an unrivaled public health crisis in the US and pushed for renewed research into causes and prevention methods.

"It has been frustrating that we have seen so little action from either state or federal legislators," said Dr. David Barbe, who ended his one-year term as AMA president this week. "The most important audience for our message right now is our legislators, and second-most important is the public, because sometimes it requires public pressure on the legislators," he told the AP.

The AMA's policymaking body, which includes many gun owners and gun supporters, voted 446 to 99 to back bans on assault weapons.

The members also voted to:

  • Support laws requiring licensing and safety training for gun owners, as well as registration of guns
  • Support any laws banning people younger than 21 from buying a gun or ammunition
  • Push for laws allowing relatives to obtain court orders to remove guns from suicidal or imminently violent individuals
  • Push for training for doctors to better recognize suicide risks in patients
  • Push for eliminating loopholes that allow people with a legal history of domestic violence, including stalking, to buy or own a firearm

The AMA represents less than a quarter of the nations doctors, with 243,000 members in 2017. But it has been a heavy hitter in lobbying. Between 1998 and 2011, the group was the second highest spender on lobbyists in the country, spending $263 million.

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