Public Policy Advocacy

Surgeons Address Gun Violence

By: Brendan T. Campbell, MD, MPH, FACS

As a gun owner, parent, and pediatric surgeon, I can see both sides of what is all too often a polarized debate about how best to prevent firearm injuries in the United States. Perhaps a better way to frame this debate is as a dialogue with a common purpose – to reduce violence and make firearm ownership as safe as possible.

As an avid hunter, I’ve owned and used guns in the field for all of my adult life. As a pediatric surgeon at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, I have seen the irrevocable harm accessible guns can cause for curious toddlers and impulsive teenagers.

For the last year, I have had the privilege to serve as a member of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS COT) Firearm Strategy Team (FAST) Workgroup. The team consisted of 18 American surgeons who are passionate firearm owners with a broad range of experience with firearm ownership and use. The group is geographically diverse, and has members with previous military experience and includes current and former NRA members.

Our charge was to create an effective and durable strategy for reducing firearm injury, death, and disability in the United States. Our 13 recommendations were published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Highlights of those recommendations include background checks for all purchases and transfers of firearms, mandating federally funded research into firearm injury prevention, requiring safe storage of firearms, requiring direct adult supervision for children using firearms under the age of 12 and indirect supervision for those between ages 12 and 18, and increasing mental health-related referrals when warning signs are identified.

As the debate over gun violence in our country continues, it is my hope that gun owners and non-gun owners can find new ways to work together to find common ground so we can make meaningful progress in addressing this uniquely American problem.

Make no mistake about it, gun violence is a complex issue that will require creative public health and policy solutions. The best way to make headway is to start treating this issue like we treat our patients, which is to implement optimal treatment based on the best available evidence.

I am hopeful that our nation’s political leaders will implement the FAST Workgroup’s recommendations at the federal level. Doing so would make a profound impact on reducing firearm injuries and deaths while preserving constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

Watch Dr. Campbell’s interview on CNN.

Listen to Dr. Campbell’s interview on Slate Media.

Brendan T. Campbell, MD, MPH, FACS is the medical director of the pediatric trauma program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and is a research scientist for Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health. Dr. Campbell is also a member of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.

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