April 23, 2018–In an article published in the Journal of Trauma, Drs. Ronald Stewart, Eileen Bulger, Michael Rotondo and Deborah Kuhls lay out an approach to address the rising toll of firearm injury that steers clear of political and personal pitfalls. Freedom with Responsibility: A consensus strategy for preventing injury, death and disability is the result of decades of advocacy and five years of specific consideration by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
The trauma surgeons suggest approaching firearm violence as a public health problem, evaluating evidence related to violence prevention programs, and creating “a forum for civil, collegial and professional dialogue centered upon reducing death and suffering.” The surgeons believe that, regardless of political leanings, Americans can agree that firearm ownership is a liberty protected by the U.S. Constitution and that it should be as safe as reasonably possible.
They propose broadly that those who are a danger to themselves or others should not own firearms, that responsible ownership includes “safe storage, education, training, and a commitment to keep firearms out of the hands of family members at high risk of self-harm, unlawful purchasers, and violent offenders,” that mental health treatment must be improved, and that study is needed to “understand and address the proximate causes of violence.”
The authors urge lawmakers to enact policies that balance personal freedom and responsibility. “The time is now for political differences to be set aside, for polarizing and incendiary language to be avoided, and for our energies to be devoted to thoughtful policy development and specific actions in the context of a public health model,” they write.
Drs. Stewart and Bulger are members of the NTI Board of Directors.
-by Pam Bixby, Pam@NatTrauma..org