By Dan Diamond
POLITICO Pulse, August 8, 2019
What GOP doctors won’t say about gun violence — They won’t use the same language as the American Medical Association and other health groups, which have insisted that the nearly 40,000 annual deaths from gun violence should be treated as a “public health crisis,” according to a PULSE review.
— PULSE checked on all 16 physicians in Congress: Did they agree with medical associations that gun violence is a public health crisis? All three Democrats — Reps. Raul Ruiz (who specialized in emergency medicine), Ami Bera (general practice) and Kim Schrier (pediatrics) — have said yes, with staff referencing previous statements, like this tweet by Ruiz, where they called for treating gun violence like other public health problems.
“Every other major cause of death in the United States has the full weight of the Federal government backing research to solve it,” Schrier tweeted in June. “The same must go for the over 35,000 gun deaths every year, including many from suicide.”
— But all 13 Republican doctors either didn’t respond to PULSE’s questions or referenced previous statements on the link with mental illness. Many of those Republicans — Reps. Ralph Abraham and Scott DesJarlais (family medicine), Michael Burgess and Phil Roe (OB/GYN), Larry Bucshon (thoracic surgery), Neal Dunn (urology), Mark Green (emergency medicine), Andy Harris (anesthesiology), John Joyce (dermatology) and Roger Marshall (urology) and Sens. John Barrasso (orthopedic surgery), Bill Cassidy (gastroenterologist) and Rand Paul (ophthalmology) — previously have expressed skepticism of Democrats’ calls for gun control.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams didn’t respond to questions about whether he agreed that gun violence is a public health crisis. “HHS is deeply concerned about violence, including gun violence, that is rooted in mental illness, an area of significant focus to the Department in terms of both research and treatment,” Adams said in a statement. “One of our missions is to help Americans with mental illness find and obtain timely treatment.”
“PULSE CHECK”: Gun violence isn’t really a mental health problem — That’s according to Amy Barnhorst, a UC Davis psychiatrist who studies firearm violence, who said that’s misunderstanding the core issue and looking for retroactive red flags.
“I understand … why it’s easy for people to believe,” Barnhorst said on POLITICO’s podcast, but “just because somebody’s weird or they behave badly … that doesn’t mean they have a mental illness” like depression or schizophrenia or would have met the criteria for a diagnosis.
“It’s a convenient distractor from the other argument, which is that all of these guys do have one thing in common,” Barnhorst added. “And that thing 100 percent contributes to their being able to be a mass shooter, and that’s a gun.”
By Don McCanne, M.D.
UC Davis psychiatrist Amy Barnhorst: “All of these guys do have one thing in common and that thing 100 percent contributes to their being able to be a mass shooter, and that’s a gun.”
It’s a public health issue. We must do better.
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