The National Rifle Association is a powerful lobbying organization. But it may be outgunned by the American Medical Association, which Tuesday declared gun violence "a public health crisis" requiring a comprehensive public health solution.
At its annual meeting, just days after the worst mass shooting in American history, the AMA resolved to actively lobby Congress to overturn NRA-backed legislation that for 20 years has blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence.
As if on cue, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) launched a talking filibuster on the Senate floor, trying to pressure Republicans into accepting legislation that would deny suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and require universal background checks.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign ... that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” Murphy vowed.
In its resolution, the AMA said it is time for Congress to stop blocking vital research into the causes of gun violence and possible means of reducing it.
"With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence," said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D. "Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries."
"An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement, and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms," Stack said.
While the horrific Orlando shooting sparked the latest action, the AMA has numerous, long-standing policies that support increasing the safety of firearms and their use, and reducing and preventing firearm violence.
AMA policy also supports stricter enforcement of present federal and state gun safety legislation, and the imposition of mandated penalties for crimes committed with the use of a firearm, including the illegal possession of a firearm.
CDC research into gun violence has been prohibited since 1996, when then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) intoduced what has come to be called the Dickey Amendment, with heavy lobbying support from the NRA.
The number of gun-related deaths has skyrocketed since then, and there have been endless calls from physicians, scientists, and family members of gun violence victims for the amendment to be repealed.
Even Dickey has said he regrets introducing the amendment. He reversed his policy following the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, saying he was sorry he had served as "the NRA’s point person in Congress."
“I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey told the Huffington Post in a 2015 interview. “I have regrets.”
President Obama tried to have the amendment repealed in 2012 but was blocked by NRA backers in Congress.