Michael Dowling is taking a stand against guns. Calling firearms a “disease” that “we’ve ignored for far too long,” the healthcare executive is urging fellow doctors and hospital administrators to take “aggressive” action against this “public health crisis.”
Dowling is the president and CEO of Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health care provider and employer. He first published his stance in a blog post on Northwell Health’s website, and later took out a full-page ad in the New York Times’ national edition, according to HealthLeaders.
“Gun violence is clearly a public health crisis that we’ve ignored for far too long,” he says. “As health care providers, we have an obligation to preserve and protect life. We have a rich and proud history of responding aggressively and successfully to past public health crises.”
Leaders, Dowling says, should be willing to speak up about issues affecting their community—no matter the criticism they receive.
“To me, it’s an obligation of people who are in leadership positions to take some action, speak out, and prepare their organizations to address this as a public health issue,” he told HealthLeaders.
Dowling’s multi-step plan calls for many of the same gun control schemes being proposed by 2020 Democratic candidates, including,
- Pressuring elected officials who “fail to support sensible gun legislation.”
- Investing in mental health without stigmatizing.
- Banning sales of firearms to people at risk of harming themselves or others.
- Banning sale of firearms “that serve no other purpose than to inflict mass casualties.”
- Supporting national red flag laws.
- Supporting universal background checks.
As justification for universal background checks, Dowling likens gun sellers to doctors. He argues that in the same way that doctors shouldn’t prescribe medication to people without knowing their medical history, gun sellers shouldn’t sell guns to people who haven’t passed a background check.
“If there was a disease that was killing as many people as guns in this country, we would be mobilizing a national response effort,” he continues. “It’s inexcusable for us to remain silent.”
Dowling is either unaware of or knowingly hiding the fact that gun sellers must already subject their customers to background checks. It’s also true that many mass murderers, including the perpetrators in Dayton and El Paso, would not have been stopped by a universal background check law.
Dowling isn’t the first doctor to come out against gun rights. The American Medical Association dubbed “gun violence” a public health emergency back in 2016, and issued a statement demanding “action” after the most recent murders.
But doctors aren’t united on this issue. Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership has pushed back against the anti-gun bias in the medical community and taken issue with the move to equate gun-related violence with disease.
“Organized medicine’s decades-long campaign to have firearm-related fatalities considered as a public health rather than a criminal justice issue is not evidence-based,” Dr. Jane Orient wrote back in 2013. “Its reliance on weak, even tainted evidence and spurious reasoning, and its attempts to suppress or discredit contrary evidence, is consistent with a political agenda of incremental civilian disarmament.”