After consultations with physicians, provincial medical associations and national medical specialty associations, the CMA is releasing an updated firearms control policy.
Through this updated policy, the CMA joins a number of other major associations, including the Australian Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, in recognizing firearms as a serious threat to public health, and one of the main causes of both intentional and unintentional injuries and death.
The revised CMA policy — last updated in 2001 — is the result of extensive consultations. More than 200 physicians commented on the draft policy; in addition, the CMA held policy consultations with provincial and territorial medical associations (PTMAs) across Canada.
Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, submitted a member policy proposal to the CMA that sparked the policy update. In 2020, she was recognized with a CMA award for political advocacy for her work, which included creating the physician advocacy group Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns.
“This policy affirms that gun violence is a public health issue, and that physicians should engage with citizens and government to reduce harm from gun violence,” said Dr. Ahmed. “The CMA’s evidence-based and comprehensive recommendations will constructively inform physician and policy maker actions for many years to come, saving lives in the process.”
Physicians have a unique perspective on firearms; as health care providers, they observe the lifelong health challenges that affect patients who survive firearm injuries. They also witness lives lost as a result of firearm use.
The updated CMA policy provides guidance on the prevention of firearm violence, education for the safe handling of firearms and the regulation of firearms, while also identifying areas for further research. Recommendations include creating evidence-based education programs to prevent firearm violence, improving access to publicly-funded mental health services and requiring strong record keeping for firearms retailers, distributors and private sellers to help prevent the illegal acquisition and use of firearms.
Firearm-related injuries and fatalities are a major cause of premature and preventable death in Canada. From 2013 to 2017, 3,703 Canadians of all ages died from firearm injuries — 75% of these deaths were from suicide while 20% of deaths were from homicide.
There is robust scientific evidence that a firearm in the home is associated with a higher risk of suicide and that safe storage of firearms is associated with a lower risk of completed suicides and unintentional injuries.