Hypocrisy from the American College of Physicians: Why are They Helping Elect Politicians Who Want to Decimate Gun Violence Prevention Policies?

Yesterday, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a position paper on reducing firearm violence in the United States, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the article: “The ACP is concerned about not only the alarming number of mass shootings in the United States but also the daily toll of firearm violence in neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, and public and private places across the country.” The article goes on to support a number of possible federal gun regulation policies, including a ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, stronger laws prohibiting gun possession by people with a history of domestic violence, and red flag laws.

However, if you think that ACP is 100% committed to promoting policies to end gun violence, you would be wrong.

The Rest of the Story

While out of one side of its mouth, ACP claims to be concerned about effecting policy change at the national level, out of the other side, it is contributing tens of thousands of dollars to Congressional candidates who are backed by, and receive funding from, the National Rifle Association (NRA). To be exact, in the 2018 federal election cycle alone, the American College of Physicians contributed $46,000 to 17 Congressional candidates who currently receive money from the NRA and who vigorously oppose even the most common-sense gun violence prevention policies.

So while the American College of Physicians raises itself on a pedestal as a champion for gun violence prevention policy, underneath the pedestal it is contributing heavily to help elect candidates who are backed by, and funded by, the NRA because they oppose public health legislation to reduce gun violence, even though many of those measures are supported by the overwhelming majority of the public, including the majority of gun owners and the majority of NRA members. In 2018, the American College of Physicians is supporting the election campaigns of 17 Congressmembers who are recipients of NRA funding and who the NRA is backing because of their opposition to even the most common sense gun violence prevention policies.

Shockingly, one of the top recipients of money from the American College of Physicians is Representative Kevin Brady, who is rated A by the NRA and who is a staunch supporter of the national concealed carry reciprocity Act. Brady boasted that: “I am honored to have received the NRA’s endorsement and A rating. Thank you Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund for your gracious words: “Congressman Brady has earned an A rating from the NRA for vigorously promoting and defending our Second Amendment freedoms. Most recently, … he co-sponsored H.R. 2959, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2013.”

Representative Greg Walden, another recipient of ACP money, also enjoys an A rating from the NRA. Walden co-sponsored and supported legislation that immunized gun manufacturers from civil liability. Representative Kenny Marchant, who is also being supported by the ACP, is pushing for a national concealed carry reciprocity Act. Representative Andy Barr, whose relection campaign is being supported with $3,000 from ACP, was also a co-sponsor of the national concealed carry reciprocity legislation.

And the American College of Physicians even had the gall to contribute to Congressman Paul Ryan, another A+ stooge of the NRA, who introduced legislation that would require every state to allow anyone with a permit from another state to carry concealed weapons in their state, even if the person has a history of a violent crime that would normally prohibit them from carrying in that state.

Emory University medical student Hannah Decker, along with Drs. Jeremiah Schuur and O.N. Baker of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have conducted groundbreaking research in which they have quantified by amount of money that physician Political Action Committees have contributed to candidates based on their NRA ratings. They found, for example, that the National Emergency Medicine Political Action Committee (NEMPAC) “provided more total funding to incumbent candidates who did not support firearm background check legislation than to candidates in support of background check legislation” and concluded that: “Organized emergency medicine’s political contributions to 2016 congressional races were not aligned with ACEP’s policy on background checks.” It appears that this is also true of the American College of Physicians.

The rest of the story is that despite any public statements it may have made or position papers it may have put out, the American College of Physicians is using its campaign contributions to fight gun violence prevention policies in the United States by supporting candidates who are against sensible gun regulation. The support being given to candidates by ACP could even contribute to the re-election of politicians who will push forward a national concealed carry reciprocity bill, which would put gun violence prevention efforts further back than they have ever been and would be a public health disaster.

This is the ultimate in hypocrisy. You cannot claim to be promoting gun violence prevention policies while at the same time contributing tens of thousands of dollars to support candidates who are committed to opposing gun violence prevention policies.

I don’t see how physicians can in good conscience contribute money to ACP when they know that a good chunk of that money is going to support politicians who have committed to fighting against gun violence prevention policies.

Perhaps many ACP members were simply not aware of the way the organization is spending their membership fees.

Well … they are now.

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH