Councilmember Robert White Mobilizes Medical Community in Fight Against Gun Violence with new Firearm Injury Prevention Bill

WASHINGTON, DC (March 21, 2024) –Today, Councilmember White introduced the Firearm Injury Prevention Amendment Act to protect more District residents from experiencing gun violence. This bill will require medical professionals renewing their license in DC to take continuing education courses on gun violence prevention and intervention. They will learn how to have a conversation with patients about risk factors like easy access to firearms in the home, domestic violence, exposure to violence in the community, or history of addiction, and share resources with them to lower the risk that they will experience, or commit, gun violence. Healthcare workers are already on the front lines treating gunshot victims, and they are asking to be a part of the solution to ending gun violence.

Dr. Joseph V. Sakran, Brady Chief Medical Officer and Trauma Surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital said, “As a trauma surgeon, survivor, and leader of the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization, I am proud to see the Council of the District of Columbia introduce such impactful, life-saving legislation. As healthcare professionals, we have a crucial role in preventing firearm injury and death. By integrating gun violence prevention solutions like extreme risk protection orders and safe storage into the continuing medical education requirements, all clinicians will be better equipped to educate their patients and stop tragedy before it strikes. This bill will help initiate behavioral change to bring DC closer to a future free from gun violence.” 

DC experienced a 36% increase in homicides in 2023, a 20-year high, and the majority of homicide victims were lost to gunfire. Distressingly, guns are the leading cause of death among young people in the District, with homicide causing 96% of the child and teen fatalities. A report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Violence Fatality Review Commission identifies factors that put District residents at higher risk for homicide: In 2021, 74% of homicide victims had easy access to firearms, 61% had experienced violence, 58% had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, 57% had a past criminal history, and 53% experienced mental health challenges, including depression.  

“Guns are flowing into DC from other states and through the proliferation of ghost guns. In the absence of nationwide gun control, the District needs to close the gaps and use every partner and lever it has to decrease gun violence,” said At-Large Councilmember Robert White. “The Firearm Injury Prevention Amendment Act recruits doctors and nurses into that fight by ensuring they can identify when a patient might be at risk of experiencing or committing gun violence, and that they have the tools to help patients protect themselves and others.”

Seven focus areas are included in the continuing education requirements put forward by this bill:

  • Firearm injury risk factors (e.g. exposure to violence in one’s community)
  • Best practices for discussing firearm access and safety during patient visits
  • Safe storage of firearms and ammunition
  • Extreme risk protection orders aka ERPO or Red Flag laws
  • The relationship between depression, suicidal ideation, and gun suicide
  • The relationship between domestic violence and gun violence
  • Appropriate interventions and resources for depression, domestic violence, suicide prevention

“This bill is an important step forward in the fight against gun violence in D.C. and we’re grateful to our leaders like Councilmember White who are championing efforts to keep our communities safe,” said Michelle Chappell, a volunteer with the D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Today is a recognition of the integral and lifesaving role that we can all play in preventing gun violence, including healthcare providers and community partners. Gun safety laws must be coupled with education and implementation, and this bill would do just that by educating health care professionals so they can, in turn, advise their patients on gun violence prevention, including how to use extreme risk protection orders, reduce the risk of firearm suicide, and avoid the deadly intersection of guns and domestic violence.”

Micaela Deming, policy director for the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV) said, “The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence is encouraged to see Councilmember Robert White include domestic violence in this prevention bill because of the significant intersection between domestic violence and firearm injury as well as highlighting prevention efforts that are most effective at addressing the dynamics of domestic violence. We look forward to continuing to work with the Council and the Mayor’s administration to continue to recognize and meaningfully address domestic violence as a contributing factor in community violence, school attendance and performance, maternal and infant mortality rates, homelessness, and the health and wellness of our District.”

The Firearm Injury Prevention Amendment Act was developed through consultation with local hospital medical directors; the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; and the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In addition to the Firearm Injury Prevention Amendment Act, Councilmember White has previously introduced several other public safety and crime prevention measures, including the Whole Government Response to Crime Act, the Vocational Education for a New Generation Act, the Youth Mentorship Through Community Engagement Act, and the Truancy Reduction for Student Success Act.

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