Gun violence and firearm policy: An introduction from the ACS COT

The following article, “Gun violence and firearm policy in the U.S.: A brief history and the current status,” by members of the Resident and Associate Society (RAS) of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) provides a comprehensive overview of the issue. As members of the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT), we congratulate the authors and the entire RAS-ACS on this important contribution to the Bulletin and are grateful for all they do in the care of injured patients.

A path forward

The members of the COT have made reducing firearm violence a top priority and are moving forward with a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal. We are advocating for a constructive path forward to reduce firearm injury based on a durable public health approach. To achieve this goal, we have leveraged and committed to three guiding principles, which are as follows:

  • Approach firearm violence as a public health/trauma system problem, not a political problem
  • Evaluate the evidence for violence prevention programs with a plan to implement evidence-based violence intervention programs through our network of trauma centers
  • Make the ACS COT a forum for a civil, collegial, professional, and inclusive dialogue centered on how best to reduce injuries, complications, and deaths

In the process of developing and evaluating these strategies, we have learned surgeons agree much more than they disagree, and when the principles described above are followed, even those individuals who disagree about firearms can work together to develop strategies to reduce firearm-related injury.

Emphasis on partnership, not politics

Although the COT has demonstrated that surgeons can collaborate to achieve the shared goal of reducing injuries, we have also learned that approximately 85 percent of ACS members adhere to one of two dominant, conflicting, and simplistic narratives about firearm ownership in America. To develop policies that have a chance of making a difference, we must put aside divisive and inflammatory language and focus on solving the epidemic of violent, intentional injury in the way Americans typically solve problems—through partnership, research, technology, and common-sense policy development aimed at making us safer and preserving our freedom.

To work together, we need a new, common, and inclusive narrative: one that doesn’t divide us, but instead unifies us—one that works equally well for surgeons who have a concealed-carry permit as it does for those surgeons who have never seen and never want to touch a gun.

The members of the ACS COT have worked together with both of these groups of surgeons and have developed a draft of such a common narrative, which has been published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons* (JACS)—one that allows us to work together as colleagues and friends. Please examine this work and give us your constructive input and suggestions via comments on the JACS website or via Twitter.

Again, we congratulate our RAS colleagues and look forward to continuing to work with all ACS Fellows to significantly reduce firearm-related injury.


*Stewart RM, Kuhls DA, Rotondo MF, Bulger EM. Freedom with responsibility: A consensus strategy for preventing injury, death, and disability from firearm violence. Available ahead of print at: www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(18)30275-8/fulltext. Accessed May 18, 2018.

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