The AAP has been involved for decades in state and federal advocacy efforts to address gun violence as a public health issue and advance policies that keep children, families and communities safe.
Below are three current areas of focus and a closer look at how they work to prevent gun violence.
Federal Gun Violence Prevention Research
Just like any other public health crisis affecting children, we need a rigorous scientific approach informed by research that can keep children safe and promote their lifelong health and wellbeing. After 20 years without significant federal funding for gun violence research, for the last three years Congress has provided the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dedicated funding to conduct gun violence prevention research. Continued and increased funding is needed to rebuild the research community and support rigorous, unbiased research that can accurately quantify and describe the public health crisis of gun violence and identify opportunities for preventing morbidity and mortality, making children and their families safer.
- Letter to Congress from 288 national, state, and local medical, public health, and research organizations in support of increasing to $60 million the funding for the CDC and NIH to conduct firearm morbidity and mortality prevention research
Background Check Legislation
Current federal policy requires background checks for firearm sales by federally licensed firearms dealers. This is a public health intervention that works; since federal enactment of this policy in 1994, it has prevented over 3 million people legally prohibited from possessing a firearm from obtaining one. Unfortunately, this policy does not currently apply to sales on the internet, at gun shows, or between private individuals. This loophole enables individuals who are not legally allowed to possess firearms to purchase them, presenting a serious risk to children and families.
The AAP supports legislation to require a background check for every firearm sale and most firearm transfers. Updating federal law to institute universal background checks would make communities safer by ensuring that those who are most likely to perpetrate gun violence cannot purchase guns.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring background checks at the point of sale for all sales and transfers of all classes of firearms, whether they are purchased from a licensed dealer or an unlicensed seller.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders
Extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a person deemed at risk of harming themselves or others. These orders can be used to remove a firearm from the environment of a child or adolescent at risk of harming themselves or others, which can save lives.
The AAP supports federal legislation that would support states in implementing effective ERPO laws to expand this proven intervention.
- Webpage from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence on ERPO laws
To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted ERPO laws. Thirteen states and D.C. only allow family or household members or law enforcement to petition for removal of gun from the environment of a person at risk of harming themselves or someone else. Five states allow only law enforcement to petition for removal of firearms, and two have risk-based firearm removal laws that are similar to law enforcement-only ERPOs.
To contact your members of Congress on these issues, please visit federaladvocacy.aap.org. (AAP login required).
American Academy of Pediatrics