MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Urgent action is needed to reduce gun injuries and deaths in the United States, say several leading medical groups that offer a number of recommendations to achieve that goal.
"Along with our colleagues in law and public health, those of us who represent the nation's physicians realize that there are significant political and philosophical differences about firearm ownership and regulation in the United States," wrote Dr. Steven Weinberger, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Physicians.
"However, we strongly support a multifaceted public health approach and will not be dissuaded from advocating for the improved health of our patients and families," he added.
There are about 300 million privately owned guns in the United States, which is more than any other country in the world, the groups state. And studies have shown that access to guns increases the risk of death by murder or suicide, the groups said.
Reducing gun-related injuries and deaths requires a public health approach similar to those used to reduce smoking, motor vehicle deaths and accidental poisonings, the medical groups suggested.
They recommend criminal background checks for all gun purchases, including sales by gun dealers, sales at gun shows and private sales. The groups oppose "gag laws" that forbid doctors from discussing a patient's gun ownership, and oppose the sale or ownership of "assault weapons" and large-capacity magazines to private citizens.
The organizations also call for research into the causes and consequences of gun violence and accidental gun injuries, to help develop evidence-based policies.
These recommendations are "constitutionally sound," according to the American Bar Association.
The medical groups also want improved access to mental health care, and oppose laws that require doctors to report patients with mental or substance use disorders, because such laws may discourage patients from seeking treatment for these problems.
The recommendations are published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The groups behind the recommendations include the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Surgeons and the American Psychiatric Association.
The groups are also supported by the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, according to a journal news release.
Efforts by HealthDay to reach the National Rifle Association for comment on the recommendations were unsuccessful.
The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about gun injuries.