A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Op-Ed – NKY Medical Society: An open letter to Governor Beshear urging action on gun safety laws

Governor Beshear:

In states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence and suicide. Kentucky is ranked 40 out of 50 states (behind Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia) and considered a “National failure” state for lacking basic gun-safety protection.

This failure has led Kentucky to have nearly triple the rate of gun deaths as top-tiered states that have enacted common sense gun safety laws.

Meaningful, common sense gun safety is an absolute necessity for the health and longevity of all children and adults in our Commonwealth. We are a bipartisan group of Kentucky physician leaders that advocate protecting gun ownership rights while supporting common-sense firearm safety legislation and administration initiatives that will improve protections for all our Kentucky patients.

The two largest physician organizations in Kentucky, The Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians (KAFP) and The Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) have both made reducing gun violence and promoting common-sense firearm safety initiatives a priority. The KAFP has recommended a national response that includes the following recommendations:

1. Label violence caused by the use of guns a national public health epidemic;

2. Call for funding appropriate research at the CDC as part of the federal budget to evaluate the causes and evidence-based remedies of this epidemic;

3. Call for increase funds for training to increase the workforce of mental health providers, and for appropriate payment for mental health counseling; and

4. Call for federal support and coordination to evaluate, in concert with law enforcement, educators and social services, other appropriate responses to this epidemic.

In the Fall of 2023, The KMA released the report from their gun violence and firearm safety work group. This comprehensive review and evidence-based recommendations from a bipartisan group of rural and urban Kentucky physicians form a template for moving our Commonwealth forward for enacting common- sense gun safety initiatives. (See the report here.)

The KMA report included the following background facts:

1. Firearm-related death is now the leading cause of accidental death in the pediatric age group, 1 to 17 years;

2. In adults, 61% of all firearm-related deaths are suicides (greater than 70 % of veterans). According to CDC data, in Kentucky, one person dies of firearm-related suicide every 17 hours. Suicide by firearm is 1.4 times higher in Kentucky rural areas than in Kentucky urban areas;

3. Community interpersonal violence exerts significant morbidity and mortality across all of Kentucky’s geographic regions;

4. In 2022, Kentucky ranked 38 out of 50 states in the number of deaths per 100,000 population due to firearm injury of any intent (unintentional, suicide, homicide or undetermined) with 20.3 deaths per 100,000 population;

5. In 2021, 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States;

6. Intimate partner violence is common in Kentucky. 45.3% of Kentucky women and 35.5% of Kentucky men experience intimate partner physical violence in their lifetime. Kentucky has the 11th highest femicide rate in the United States. Specifically, African American women gun violence hospitalization rate in Kentucky is 20.88 per 100,000 (or 1 in 4789), which is 7.5 higher than that of Caucasian women in Kentucky.

When the KMA’s gun violence and firearm safety work group made their recommendations, they used the RAND Corporation’s strength of evidence review of the effectiveness of gun policies in changing gun-use outcomes. The RAND Corporation is a politically centrist, global policy think tank and research organization whose mission is to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. The KMA gun violence and firearm safety work group report included the following action recommendations:

1. The KMA acknowledges that firearm related death and injury is a public health concern for the citizens of Kentucky;

2. The KMA and its members encourage, support and promote high-quality, evidence-based research related to safe gun ownership and firearm use and safety practices;

3. The KMA support and encourage collaborative evidence-based strategies and programming addressing community interpersonal violence;

4. The KMA works with state and local legislators to establish effective, evidence-based policies that promote safe firearm ownership and use;

5. The KMA support legislation during 2024 Kentucky legislative session that would allow for the temporary transfer of firearms away from people on the brink of crisis, like that of the Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Act introduced during the 2022 session;

6. The KMA works with the appropriate stakeholders to educate the public on the rate of accidental firearm-related injuries, deaths, and suicides in Kentucky’s pediatric population; and

7. The KMA partner with relevant organizations to offer Continuing Medical Education regarding effective patient communication about gun violence and firearm safety.

As a concerned group of bipartisan physician leaders, we are writing to you and our locally elected officials to ask for your help in moving the above ideas forward to enacting common sense firearm safety legislation and policies. We support recommendations that make the use, transportation, and storage of firearms safer. We advocate for the enactment of the recent KMA recommendations and go further, advocating for any new rules and legislation that make firearms safer for our Commonwealth patients. We also support the WhitneyStrong Organization’s work in Kentucky supporting bipartisan legislation that would temporarily separate a person and their firearms in a moment of crisis. Kentucky should further establish, in cooperation with law enforcement, a regional system for the temporary transfer and safe storage of firearms when a firearm owner has been found to be in crisis.
We will work with and support elected officials, both republican and democratic, that help make firearm safety a priority in our Commonwealth.

Our patients deserve to live in safe communities and in a state that prioritizes their health and safety. We look forward to working with you to ensure this for all our patients.


The Northern Kentucky Medical Society*
Approved by the NKMS Board on 11/21/2023

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One Comment

  1. W. Jamie Ruehl says:

    Guns do not cause violence, People cause violence.

    You would hope that two lobby organizations who pursue the interests of such highly educated individuals would be able to comprehend this simple reality.

    “Gun Safety Laws” is very transparent code for “Gun Control”

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