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AMA Launches Attack on Guns
Thursday, June 21, 2001
CHICAGO - The new president of American Medical Association
dedicated his organization Wednesday to fighting guns in the United
States, prompting concern that the group is straying too far into
"I believe that this is a battle that we cannot not take on," said
Richard Corlin, a gastroenterologist from Santa Monica, Calif.
"People have told me that this is a dangerous path to follow. That I
am crazy to do it. That I am putting our organization in jeopardy.
They say we'll lose members," Corlin said in his inauguration
speech at the 100th meeting of the AMA's House of Delegates.
Corlin's platform is a ``smoke screen,'' and AMA is tampering with
gun control, said National Rifle Association research coordinator
Guns have divided AMA, which deems itself a leader on public
health issues such as tobacco and is pro-abortion but has been less
willing to take a stand on other controversies, such as the death
penalty and medical use of marijuana.
Though violence is easy to deplore, expanding the category to
include gun safety has some doctors wondering whether AMA will
be seen as opposing the Second Amendment's right to bear arms,
Associated Press noted.
Dr. Robert Woolley, a Minnesota physician who belongs to AMA
and NRA, said he probably would not renew his AMA membership
``Nobody disputes that people dying and being injured from gunshot
wounds is a terrible problem,'' Woolley told AP. ``The dilemma is
that groups such as the AMA ... are making very simplistic
assumptions that the solution is more gun control.''
AMA membership has fallen for years. It lost more than 3,000
members last year and more than $4 million in membership dues.
Corlin said the AMA would attack gun violence the way organized
medicine has attacked other health concerns: by accumulating
research and data and scientific evidence.
"What we don't know about violence and guns is literally killing us,"
he said. "And yet, very little is spent on researching gun-related
injuries and deaths."
Part of the reason, Corlin said, is that under pressure by the gun
lobby, $2.6 million in federal funding for research into gun violence
was stripped from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in the 1990s.
Dr. John Bennett, a member of the gun rights group Doctors
Sensible Gun Laws, suspects that the AMA will seek ``lopsided
``If they similarly put the same kind of effort into tracking crimes that
are prevented by guns, I think that's fine,'' said Bennett, an AMA
member from Sequim, Wash. Not doing so would be ``like looking
at a medicine to see if it's got any side effects and not considering''
its benefits, AP reported.
Corlin called for increased spending to allow agencies to collect
data on gunshot deaths and gunshot injuries and other aspects of
the "epidemic" that he says claims more than 30,000 lives a year.
He made no mention of the benefits of firearms and how many lives
are saved by guns.
Corlin said researchers did not have the data to tell how children get
guns, if trigger locks work, what the warning signs of violence in
schools and at the workplace are and other critical questions
because of lack of research funding. "Gunfire kills 10 children a day
in America," Corlin alleged.
"If this was a virus or a defective car seat or an undercooked
hamburger that was killing out children, there would be a massive
uproar within a week. Instead our capacity to feel a sense of national
shame has been diminished by the pervasiveness and numbing
effect of all this violence." said Corlin, whose secretary was killed
when a stray bullet ripped through her head as she left a relative's
"As physicians we are accustomed to doing what is right for our
patients - and not worrying about our comfort, ease or popularity.
Our goal is to cure an epidemic. If removing the scourge of gun
violence isn't bettering the public health - what is?"
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