Physician groups weigh in on gun bans, mental health policies

The group representing Connecticut emergency room doctors has endorsed a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and is calling for financial and policy support for mental health services.

Dr. Karen Jubanyik, president of the Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians, said the best argument for banning the weapons was the shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Connecticut’s emergency physicians are prepared for the very worst of events, but the magnitude of the Newtown devastation was beyond even our capabilities,” she said in a statement to the legislature’s task force on gun violence prevention and children’s safety. “The Danbury Hospital Emergency Department quickly assembled a team of dozens of doctors, nurses, technicians and others to stabilize and operate on the injured, but it was quickly apparent that these were not survivable injuries, even with the best of emergency care.”

She also noted that emergency physicians “see the effects of untreated mental illness in emergency rooms every day.”

“As our state and our communities try to heal in the coming months and years, one of the most effective actions we can take will be to ensure that people with psychiatric illness and their families are getting access to the help that they need, and that those programs are properly funded,” Jubanyik said.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut State Medical Society said it would work to advance a number of principles to improving safety. Those include:

–       Expanding education and social programs that encourage play by children and prevent exposure to violent games and movies.

–       Reducing opportunities for young people to become isolated, including by reversing cuts to programs that direct young people to programs such as afterschool and community activities, therapy or occupational training.

–       Providing accessible, affordable options for families of children with disabilities so they can get the care they need rather than waiting for them to break the law and be funneled into the juvenile justice system.

–       Opposing cuts to mental health services.

–       Educating patients about the safety risks of having weapons in the home and supporting programs that educate the public about gun safety.

–       Supporting a strong assault-weapons ban, elimination of the sale of automatic and many semiautomatic weapons, and restrictions on the size of magazines and number of rounds held.