AMA: Illegal gun sales are a public health emergency

The American Medical Association filed an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court Jan. 22 arguing that "the do-nothing approach to firearm violence is particularly unacceptable to physicians," because they, like their community members, must deal with the repercussions of such violence on a daily basis.

The brief was filed as part of a lawsuit brought against Armslist, a website that hosts classified ads for firearms. In October 2012, Radcliffe Haughton purchased a semi-automatic handgun from a private seller who posted an ad on Armslist. Mr. Haughton later used the weapon to kill three women, including his wife, and injure four others before fatally shooting himself in a salon in Brookfield, Wis.

One of the injured victims, Yasmeen Daniel, filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed by a lower court, which said the website was immune from culpability because of its status as a passive publisher of content created by third parties. However, a state appellate court reversed the decision, arguing that the allegations against Armslist were not related to the website's role as the publisher of third-party content.

The AMA's amicus brief stated facilitating illegal arms sales does not fall under the "traditional publisher functions," and that physicians should be involved in the conversation surrounding gun violence because "physicians carry these invisible scars into their day-to-day lives."

In a statement concerning the filing of the amicus brief, AMA President Barbara McAneny, MD, said the medical community should do its part to urge the courts to consider illegal gun sales a public health emergency.

"We bear the emotional weight of treating the victims of gun violence everyday: Their wounds, paralysis, colostomies, brain injuries, depression, chronic infections and post-traumatic stress. Common-sense measures to support enacted laws can help prevent more carnage," she said.

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