State doctors’ group calls for more gun control, repeal of Second Amendment ‘sanctuary’ law; passes resolutions on many topics

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The Kentucky Medical Association called mass shooting and gun violence “a public-health crisis” and called for more gun control in one of nine resolutions on the topic at its annual convention.

Voting delegates representing the state’s doctors also adopted resolutions addressing sex education, abortion care and more at their meeting Aug. 25-27 in Louisville.

Kentucky has the “14th-highest rate of gun deaths” in the nation, according to one of the resolutions.

KMA joined several other groups in declaring the public-health crisis, in a resolution that supports “A ban of assault (semi-automatic) weapons and killing-enhancement features, including high-capacity magazines, rapid-fire increases (‘bump stocks’), silencers, and guns without serial numbers (‘ghost’ and 3-D printed guns).”

The resolution also calls for background checks without loopholes, waiting periods and safety training on all firearm transfers (retail, internet, gun-show purchases, lending and gifts); and extreme-risk protective orders (‘red flag’ laws) “to disarm persons who pose risks of gun violence to self or others.”

Before the convention, Alex Acquisto of the Lexington Herald-Leader talked to KMA Executive Vice President Patrick Padgett about how KMA passes resolutions and what it means.

Padgett said the association, by definition, is an advocacy organization to promote the well-being of patients, doctors and the community at large, and the resolutions represent the consensus of an organization that represents thousands of doctors statewide. Padgett said KMA members regularly conduct grassroots advocacy with legislators about health-related bills.

The group’s rules say any KMA member can propose a policy change, which is then reviewed by a group of more than 100 doctors in KMA’s House of Delegates, which votes on resolutions in deliberations that are closed to the public. KMA is a private organization, not a public agency coveregd by the state Open Meetings Act.

Acquisto notes that the KMA’s suggested firearm legislation goes against the long-prevailing views in the General Assembly.

Other resolutions support creation of a statewide gun-safety office to reduce firearm-related deaths;  eliminating ghost-gun loopholes; supporting legislation that promotes the implementation of “domestic violence prohibition laws;” screening during medical visits for presence of guns in the home; and research and educational campaigns about firearms, including safe storage.

“Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has called for the legislature to pass  to this end multiple times since he became governor — as far back as 2019 after two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left dozens of people dead, and again this year, after a gunman in downtown Louisville killed five people,” Acquisto reports.

Such laws are not popular “in a state that has historically championed the proliferation of and freedom to possess firearms,” she adds. “Beshear’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, said in 2019 that red flag laws are an ‘erosion of our constitutional rights’ and signed” into a law a bill repealing the requirement for a separate permit or training to carry a concealed deadly weapon.

“In 2020, a bipartisan bill to enact a red-flag law in Kentucky failed to get traction,” Acquisto notes. “Earlier this year, legislators enacted a law making Kentucky a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’ state.”

The legislation, which Beshear allowed to become law without his signature, says local and state officials and their employees shall not “enforce, assist in the enforcement of, or otherwise cooperate in the enforcement of a federal ban on firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”

One of the KMA resolutions calls for Kentucky to repeal the law, saying it and one to ban local gun laws “substantially weaken protection of our schoolchildren, citizens and police officers from mass shootings and gun violence.”

Abortion resolutions
Last year’s KMA meeting, two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections, allowing Kentucky’s trigger law banning abortion except to save the life of the mother to become law, “could not reach consensus to take a bold stance in opposition to state laws restricting it,” Acquisto reports.
Five abortion-related resolutions were proposed at that meeting, and most were not adopted. This year, the KMA House of Delegates passed two of three abortion-related proposals.
The first one “supports the protection of OB/GYN residents in Kentucky to have comprehensive education and training in obstetrics and gynecology,” stating that without such training, “residents will compromise the future of OB/GYN health care and failure to incorporate abortion training in the resident curriculum will lead to a generation of physicians ill-equipped to fulfill their duty to care for patients.”
The other resolution calls for “revisions to relevant state statutes that restrict access to abortion-inducing medications for women who experience underlying medical conditions concurrently with life-threatening pregnancies.”
That is aimed at 2022 House Bill 3, which “prohibits doctors from providing abortion-inducing medication to patients with certain medical histories, including if they have a history of ectopic pregnancies, are taking steroid hormones for rheumatoid arthritis, or are on a blood thinner medication for a heart condition, for example,” Acquisto writes.
The resolution says “The unintended consequences of HB 3 could adversely impact women and risk their lives during a life-threatening pregnancy.”
A resolution to support comprehensive reproductive health care for women, including the opportunity to choose a medical or surgical abortion, was not adopted.
Transgender health care and sex education 

Acquisto reports that last year, before most Republican-controlled states “began outlawing gender-affirming care for transgender youth, KMA adopted a policy supporting access to hormones and puberty blockers, and the preservation of the doctor-patient relationship in such settings, devoid of political tampering. According to the current policy handbook, KMA ‘advocates against any prohibition of physicians or other health care providers (from) socially affirming gender identity or discussing evidence-based therapies for management of gender dysphoria with their patients and their parents.’ The association also supports behavioral-health options and “non-surgical treatment provided to youth by appropriately trained and experienced health-care providers.”

This year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 150, outlawing all forms of gender-affirming medical care for trans youth, contradicting the advice of the KMA and all oyther major U.S. medical associations.

None of this year’s KMA resolutions addressed gender-affirming care, but two dealt with sex and health education in direct response to SB 150. One says “KMA supports legislation to remove age limits for health education in schools.”

The other says “SB 150 . . . has raised the question of whether teaching students human health-related curriculum, including puberty and menstrual health education, is permitted in Kentucky before 6th grade.” It amended KMA policy to say the group opposes the sole use of “abstinence-only education by providing information about condoms, birth control, and other means of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” and “supports age-appropriate anticipatory education related to menstruation and puberty for elementary school students,” as well as “age-appropriate sexual education in schools to include information on sexual assault, consent communication, and dating violence prevention” and “age-appropriate sexual education in schools to include reference to non-traditional (LGBTQIA) practices for safe sex, in the interests of equality and prevention of sexually transmitted disease.”
The resolution says KMA “will work with appropriate agencies, including but not limited to the public-school system, to ensure that sex education is age-appropriate, evidence-based, led by well- trained individuals, and subject to periodic evaluation and improvement.”
Other resolutions 
The House of Delegates also adopted resolutions to :
  • Encourage swimming lessons for children, promotion of fences around swimming pools and direct supervision of children around water by a responsible individual, amid increased focus on an increased drowning risk of children with autism.
  • Encourage caution in pediatric melatonin consumption and to promote physician-led education to caregivers regarding pediatric use of melatonin.
  • Increase skin cancer prevention, noting that “from 2016 to 2020, Kentucky was in the top 10 states with incidence rates of melanoma.”
  • Support efforts to educate health care professionals and the public about the frequency and severity of eating disorders and weight stigma, and stated that it supports evidence-based treatment for eating disorders and the removal of insurance barriers designed to deny or restrict such treatment.
  • Promote efforts to decrease the rate of physicians’ moral injury in Kentucky, defined as “the challenge of simultaneously knowing what care patients need but being unable to provide it due to a variety of constraints that are beyond a physician’s control.”
  • Support improvements in mental health care services for the postpartum period to improve maternal and infant health outcomes; and supports advocating for funding of programs that aid postpartum depression research.
  • Support use of anti-obesity medications if they are safe, effective and have a sustained impact with lifestyle modifications; and to advocate for better access to anti-obesity medications for all patients appropriately prescribed those medications.
  • Urge an increase research on the safety and efficacy of Kratom and to support increased regulation on the sale and purchase of Kratom. The resolution states that while Kratom is legal to buy, sell and own in Kentucky, “The opioid and stimulant properties of Kratom make it an option for treating opioid withdrawal, but subsequently comes with risk for abuse, addiction, and overdose.” It also supported a resolution to ban over-the-counter sales of Kratom in Kentucky and that it supports increased education regarding its misuse and negative health effects.
  • Encourages and support expanding representation of darker skin tones in medical education, especially in printed texts and textbooks.
Click here for a list of the adopted resolutions and for the “Kentucky Medical Association Gun Violence and Firearm Safety Work Group Report to the 2023 KMA House of Delegates.”
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