January 29, 2018

My plan for today’s blog post was to discuss the current NHMS policy regarding firearms and to suggest some further actions that NHMS could take regarding the U.S. epidemic of gun violence.  I do plan to explore this issue in more detail soon in our bi-monthly magazine, but recent bills in the NH Legislature and almost daily events in the news prompted this discussion today.

Let me start with today’s horrible news of another mass shooting, this time at a carwash in Pennsylvania where four innocent people were killed and perhaps the gunman might die as well of a self-inflicted wound from his own AR-15.  According to “Gun Violence Archives” this is the 22nd mass shooting in the U.S. in 2018 so far.  Further stats in 2018 are equally alarming: 1144 gun-related deaths so far, 2092 gun-related injuries, 51 children shot or killed, 220 teenagers shot or killed. The average homicide rate in the US is more than twenty five times the average of other high-income countries. The stats of this epidemic are of course mind-boggling, but what, of course, is even more alarming is the lack of attention and action by our society (government) to do anything to address this horrendous epidemic.

State medical societies, the AMA and many prominent medical journals are responding to this epidemic by expressing their concern and adopting policies to address this issue. On March 14, 2014, the NHMS adopted a “Policy on Firearm Safety.” That policy “supports universal background checks on all firearm purchases” and “the use of gun locks and other safety devices that will reduce accidental injury and death from firearms.” The policy also “opposes firearm purchases by individuals who have been involuntarily committed for mental health services, with allowance for restoration of those rights by court petition.”

Most of us had never heard of “bump stocks” until the most horrific mass murder in Las Vegas, on October 1, 2017; now the phrase is all-too-familiar and so unbelievably frightening. I recently became aware of a bill in the NH Senate that would ban “bump stocks” and similar devices in our state. I learned of the hearing one day before the Senate Judiciary was having a hearing on SB 492 last Thursday, January 25, so I could only testify through a letter I sent to the hearing.  

The recent legislative action in NH on firearm issues has prompted me to bring up firearm issues again for NHMS to consider. It is important to be proactive in this area as issues come up quickly and if NHMS has more specific policies we can have some important impact on the issue of firearm deaths and injuries in our state. In that context I have proposals to bring up for deliberation at the next NHMS Executive Council meeting on February 14th regarding assault rifles, bump stocks, magazine size, concealed weapon permits and removing guns from individuals accused or found guilty of domestic violence. I would appreciate any feedback or response from NHMS members and invite discussion of these and other related issues. I can be contacted at lenkorn.md@gmail.com .

Leonard Korn MD

President, New Hampshire Medical Society