Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics
“The nation’s pediatricians applaud President Obama for his leadership in the wake of the recent violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The President’s federal policy recommendations today represent the necessary national commitment to addressing gun violence prevention and mental health access in a comprehensive, meaningful way. We are pleased that the President accepted AAP recommendations provided during our Jan. 3 meeting with the White House Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention.
“Among other proposals, the President took action to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to research the causes and prevention of gun violence and to clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in the home. In addition, the Academy is pleased with the administration’s new national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign. These are meaningful steps that will improve the safety of the nation’s children.
“The AAP believes that children deserve a safe environment in which to grow and learn. The Academy agrees with the President that to prevent future incidents like the shooting in Newtown there must be stronger gun laws, comprehensive access to mental health care, and no restrictions on federal gun violence research and prevention efforts. President Obama’s proposals reflect the AAP’s recommendations for specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including a strong, effective assault weapon ban; mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases; and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“In addition to addressing firearm regulations, we must improve access to quality mental health care both to help prevent violent acts and to assist victims of trauma. The AAP agrees with the President that we must improve the identification of mental illnesses through increased screening, address inadequate insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs that create barriers to access, strengthen the overall quality of mental health access, and improve and expand the Medicaid reimbursement policy to include mental health and developmental services.
“Today, the President acted to protect children from the horrific consequences of gun violence and traumatic events, and to promote children’s safety in their homes, schools and communities. Congress must show similar leadership and act promptly to develop and ensure passage of effective legislation and regulatory measures that will significantly reduce the senseless loss of young lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics and America’s families are calling for change. Pediatricians stand ready to assist.”