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CROSSFIRE

The American Medical Association decries gun violence but finances pro-gun candidates

A gun in the hand of a police officer
A health crisis
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published

The article was updated to include the AMA’s comment. 

Gun violence is a public health crisis.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the most influential medical lobbying group in the US, along with other prominent health organizations, has recognized it as such since 2016, when it officially stated that “uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public’s health inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths.”

The AMA also officially supports stricter background checks and waiting periods before people purchase guns, as well as stricter enforcement of existing gun laws in order to reduce casualties from shootings. Yet when it comes to its lobbying spending, the walk does not match the talk.

The AMA—as well as other major American medical associations—donates more money to pro-gun candidates than it does to those who support gun control.

Medical organizations donate more to pro-gun politicians

It is common for large organizations to make donations to candidates on both sides of the aisle. But the AMA’s donation record displays active support of candidates who protect gun manufacturers from responsibility for their products and who have voted against legislation intended to make it more difficult to purchase guns, undermining the very laws the AMA officially promotes.

According to a study published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the AMA spent more on candidates who received an A rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) than it did on candidates rated B to F.

In 2018, in the House and Senate, the AMA donated $574,000 to NRA-backed candidates, and $420,000 to other candidates. Similarly, it donated almost twice as much to members of the House and the Senate who voted against two connected bills to expand background checks as it did to those who supported those bills. (The bills didn’t pass.)

These contributions are consistent with those of other major medical organizations, most of which show even higher levels of financial support for pro-gun candidates. The few exceptions are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, which give more money to candidates rated B to F by the NRA.

Overall, medical associations gave $1.5 million more to pro-gun candidate races in 2018, $500,000 more to sitting senators opposing the background check bill, and $2.9 million more to representatives doing so.

“The AMA is not a single-issue organization. We are a diverse organization with wide-ranging policies on matters such as the opioid epidemic, coverage for the uninsured, violence against women, telehealth, drug pricing, and, yes, guns,” a spokesperson for the AMA told Quartz in an email. “We know of no candidate or member of Congress who agrees with us on every one of the thousands of policies that guide the AMA’s advocacy.”

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