Guns are a hot-button issue in the U.S.: Some want to ban them, some want to regulate them, and some simply want to keep them.
But a different way to combat gun violence - researching its underlying causes - is gaining interest among Pennsylvania physicians.
The York County Medical Society this weekend initiated a resolution that says non-biased research must be conducted to better understand the sources and causes of gun violence from a medical perspective. The Pennsylvania Medical Society then passed the resolution, aiming to garner public and legislative support.
No specific event caused the York chapter to bring up the issue - just its prevalence in its members' daily lives, said president-elect D. Scott McCracken, M.D.
"We have on our board and our membership many doctors in all different specialties," he said. "This is an extremely frequent occurrence in our offices and our emergency rooms."
The goal: There are many other public health issues that have mounds of research behind them. For instance, research on influenza and cigarette smoking have spawned several ways of prevention and treatment that have led to large-scale cultural changes, said McCracken, a family physician practicing in York City.
The idea is to have the same conversation about gun violence, he said. But political debate has stymied that progress, so doctors still don't really know the underlying medical causes of gun violence, McCracken said.
"We have a very robust public health system in the U.S., and this issue is virtually off their radar - and not by accident," he said, noting that health care organizations shy away from research that might upset certain groups.
But physicians recognize that the goal should be to decrease injury and mortality rates, McCracken said. To do that, they need research to lead them in a unified direction, he said.
Much of the research that currently exists is led by special-interest groups, which hinders its applicability, he said.
So research through organizations such as the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be the optimal way to clarify causes of gun violence, McCracken said.
"I think to make significant progress, we want to see something at the federal level," he said.
Not about gun control: But the medical society is not pinning guns as the scapegoat, McCracken said.
"As physicians who treat these patients, we don't see this as a conversation about gun control," he said.
The issue is much deeper than that, considering that there are countries with similar gun laws that don't have the gun violence problem the U.S. does, McCracken said.
"I think we feel the gist of this is that gun control would not solve the problem. It's much more complex," he said. "We just feel the momentum to keep addressing it kind of fizzled - the problem is not going away."
That momentum isn't where it should've been 15 or 20 years ago, he said, so it's time to start analyzing some gun violence data.
"Unfortunately, we generate a lot of data in cities in Pennsylvania," McCracken said. "We are doing ourselves a disservice by not attempting to address the root causes of these events."
Through publicly acknowledging a position the society has had for some time, he said he hopes it can work its way through political processes and garner support.
"We need to keep working at it, and we don't want to lose sight of what's going on," he said.
-Reach Mollie Durkin at email@example.com.