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American Doctors
Prescribing Gun Control
By Mark Riley - Herald Correspondent in New York

Doctors in the United States are preparing to add an unexpected new element to their traditional bedside manner by delivering discreet lectures to their patients on the risk of gun ownership.

An ad hoc coalition representing about two-thirds of the country's practicing doctors has recommended the move as concerns rise about the continuing incidents of gun violence in neighborhoods and schools.

The group, Doctors Against Handgun Injury, believes doctors have a responsibility to lecture on gun safety because of the heavy death and injury toll caused by shooting incidents.

Doctors are being advised to ask regular patients whether they are gun owners and, if they are, to highlight the dangers and responsibilities of having weapons in their homes.

The group, representing 600,000 doctors, is headed by Dr Jeremiah Barondess, the president of the New York Academy of Medicine. He says there is no particular political motivation behind the move, even though it would bring the group into direct conflict with the powerful conservative forces of the National Rifle Association.

"We are neutral politically, academically and intellectually," he told the New York Observer. "Getting shot and being dead is certainly a clinical issue."

The doctors expect that their move will receive strong support in the more liberal states, such as New York, but will encounter resistance in the pro-gun regions of the mid-west and the south.

Doctors Against Handgun Injury also plans to engage more traditional methods of lobbying, using its voice to push for mandatory background checks of buyers at gun shows, limits on the numbers of guns a person can own and a cooling off period on gun purchases to allow exhaustive checks to be run before a buyer gets possession of a gun.

The group circulated its first report to members last week, just days after the latest school shooting. Two students were killed and 13 other people injured when 15-year-old Andy Williams opened fire at a high school in Santee, California. The boy used a .22 handgun he had taken from his father's gun cabinet.

A pro-gun group of 1,300 medical practitioners, Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, has accused the new gun-control doctors' lobby of being motivated by political activism rather than public health concerns.

"Handgun ownership is not a medical issue and never has been," the head of the group, Dr Tim Wheeler, said.

For more information on this issue see
The AMA
Guns & Intellectual Dishonesty
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