Gun safetyDoctor-affiliated PACs fund candidates opposing gun safety policies

Published 25 February 2019

Researchers found that physician-affiliated political action committees provided more financial support to candidates who opposed increased background checks, contrary to many societies’ recommendations for evidence-based policies to reduce firearm injuries.

Political action committees (PACs) affiliated with physician organizations contribute more money to political candidates who oppose evidence-based policies to reduce firearm-related injuries than to those who support such policies, a new study found.

This pattern of giving is inconsistent with advocacy efforts by many individual physicians and organizations in support of the policies, the researchers said.

“Doctors can — and should — lead efforts to prevent firearm violence,” said study co-author Dr. Jeremiah Schuur, chair of emergency medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

“Yet we found that the PACs affiliated with the doctors who provide frontline care for victims of gun violence contribute to candidates who are blocking evidence-based firearm safety policies. If the organized political giving of these organizations doesn’t match their stated public health goals, they undermine the moral authority and scientific credibility they draw upon when advocating for policy change.”

Indirectly, such contributions hinder the health and safety of patients, Schuur added. 

The findings were published on Feb. 22, in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Physician professional organizations and individual doctors have recently called attention to firearm-related injuries in multiple forums, from #ThisIsOurLanetweets to policy recommendations published in 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an academic journal — deemed a Call to Action.

Brown says that to conduct the study, Schuur and his two co-authors analyzed campaign contributions from the 25 largest physician organization-affiliated PACs in the U.S. to determine whether their support for political candidates aligned with their established positions on firearm safety regulations. The authors reviewed the candidates’ voting records on a U.S. Senate amendment (SA 4750) or co-sponsorship of a U.S. House of Representatives resolution (HR 1217), two legislative efforts that sought to expand background checks for firearm purchases. 

The analysis found that the majority of physician-affiliated PACs provided more money to Congressional candidates who, during the 2016 election cycle, opposed increased background checks — which the study said are an evidence-based policy shown to reduce rates of suicide, homicide and accidental firearm injury. That financial support is contrary to many of the societies’ policy recommendations, said Schuur, who is also the physician-in-chief for emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital.