As the nation continues to grapple with the best policy solutions to help prevent gun violence, powerful lobbying groups like the NRA continue to wield outsized influence over the ongoing conversation. That’s why pediatricians, who are currently lobbying Congress for stronger gun laws in order to safeguard children’s health, are treading cautiously as they quietly push for legislative action.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents about 60,000 pediatricians across the country, has publicly come out in favor of expanded background checks, an assault weapons ban, and more federal research into gun violence. The group of doctors has consistently framed these steps as matters of public health, not politics. Nonetheless, the AAP is well aware of the fact that staking out a position on firearms could still get them in trouble with the NRA, which works hard to discredit any medical groups that wade into the issue:
Gun advocacy groups have moved to discredit the AAP, which represents 60,000 doctors who have voted overwhelmingly to support some gun measures. One was set up specifically to do this — the Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO). “DRGO is a nationwide network of 1,400 medical doctors, other health care professionals, scientists, and others who support the safe and lawful use of firearms for any legitimate purpose,” the group says on its website.
Founded by the pro-gun-ownership Second Amendment Foundation, DRGO says the the AAP and the American Medical Association are “motivated by deep-seated prejudice against gun owners.” “DRGO’s mission is to expose the poor medical scholarship — and the anti-gun bias behind it — held out as truth by organized medicine and medical journalism,” the group says.
The NRA has sponsored legislation to stop pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home — something that really puzzles doctors who routinely ask about other safety issues, such as using car seats and wearing helmets while riding bikes.
A federal judge struck down Florida’s 2011 law that forbade doctors to ask about guns in the home, but the NRA has sponsored similar legislation in Alabama, North Carolina, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.
In fact, the NRA has stifled medical professionals’ ability to prevent gun violence for decades. In the 1990s, the group and its pro-gun allies successfully stripped funding from the Centers for Disease Control’s gun research programs, which has prevented public research into areas that could shed insight into gun violence prevention. At the beginning of this year, the White House announced that it will attempt to remove those restrictions and encourage new scientific innovation in this area — an especially important priority considering the fact that treating gun wounds costs the U.S. an estimated $2 billion each year.
Pediatricians aren’t the only ones pointing to the toll that gun violence takes on the nation’s youth. On Sunday, four mothers whose young children were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting emphasized the danger that guns pose to children in a powerful op-ed. Nevertheless, the NRA continues to market its products specifically to children.