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Historic Firearm Safety Law Aligns with ACS Recommendations

August 1, 2022

Historic Firearm Safety Law Aligns with ACS Recommendations

On June 24, President Joseph Biden signed historic firearm safety legislation into law. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act represents passage of the first major federal firearm safety legislation in nearly 3 decades, and many of its provisions adhere to recommendations developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma (COT) in recent years and reiterated in the wake of recent devastating mass shootings. The legislation includes several actionable measures for reducing death and disability caused by firearm-related violence, as well as $250 million for community violence intervention programs.

Before the Senate passed its version of the bill, the ACS issued a statement of support.

“Surgeons are on the front lines treating these seriously injured patients every single day, and we see how this violence devastates families and communities. As a result, the surgical community remains unwilling to wait for another tragedy to befall another community when we know there’s a way to save lives today,” said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. “We fully support the bill as a good first step to address this public health crisis. We believe that more can be done to make our communities safer, and we will continue to advocate for bipartisan, common-sense solutions rooted in our recommendations.”

Earlier in June, the ACS held an Accelerating Our Response to America’s Firearm Public Health Crisis news conference, in which College leaders described the urgent need for bipartisan firearm safety reform. The College is gratified that the words of the organization and broader medical community were heeded, though work remains to be done to address the issue.

Legislation Overview

The law calls for implementing state-level red flag laws by temporarily removing firearms from individuals deemed an immediate threat for harming themselves or others, and permits authorities to check the juvenile and mental health records of intended purchasers younger than 21 years old for up to 10 business days. It also provides stronger protection for domestic violence victims, calls for federally licensing more firearm sellers, and ends straw purchases that circumvent the transfer of firearms to individuals who cannot make legal purchases. The legislation provides for $15 billion in new federal funding to bolster mental health programs and school security upgrades, which will have an impact on preventing further tragedy.

“These all are actionable items that can be put into place quickly to help us address the public health crisis of firearm violence,” Dr. Turner said.

Dr. Bailey speaking at the ACS Accelerating Our Response to America’s Firearm Public Health Crisis press conference
Dr. Bailey speaking at the ACS Accelerating Our Response to America’s Firearm Public Health Crisis press conference

Alignment with COT Recommendations

The COT has recommended implementing several provisions in the legislation through its Firearm Strategy Team (FAST), which released 13 recommendations to address firearm violence in 2018.
FAST recommendations are aligned or partially aligned with these issues:

  • Red flag laws (mandatory reporting and risk mitigation)
  • Obtaining ownership (robust background checks for private sales and transfers of firearms)
  • Firearm registration (updates the definition of who is considered a dealer of firearms to clarify the law and put high-volume sellers on notice that they should obtain a federal license)

“While we think this legislation is a great start, there’s more important work that needs to be done,” said Eileen Bulger, MD, FACS, Medical Director of ACS Trauma Programs, and a coauthor of the FAST recommendations. “We encourage congressional leaders to consider the remaining FAST recommendations for future legislation.
“In addition, we want to be sure that as a nation, we empower the medical community across all healthcare settings to act in the best interests of their patients in a variety of palpable ways. These paths include counseling patients on safe firearm storage, screening patients at risk for firearm injury or death, and engaging the community in addressing the social determinants of violence through hospitals and healthcare systems.”

The ACS is committed to continued advocacy for comprehensive solutions that will stem the tide of violence and prevent further tragedies.

“We also advocate for increased research funding, particularly at the federal level, that will address, among many things, the root causes of violence and identify social determinants of violence for firearm injury victims. While firearm violence is often linked to mental health issues, it is but one issue that must be addressed. Many factors contribute to the firearm violence we see increasing in our communities every day,” said Jeffrey Kerby, MD, FACS, Chair of the ACS COT. “Programs like ACS ISAVE [Improving Social Determinants to Attenuate Violence] make concrete recommendations to address underlying factors that contribute to escalating community violence.” 

See the News Conference

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act represents passage of the first major federal firearm safety legislation in nearly 3 decades, and many of its provisions adhere to recommendations developed by the ACS COT in recent years and reiterated in the wake of recent devastating mass shootings.