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Pediatricians applaud Obama effort to reduce gun violence

Maryland's pediatricians applaud President Barack Obama for his leadership in the wake of the gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. ("Obama pledges fight for gun laws," Jan. 17).

The president's federal policy recommendations represent a necessary national commitment to addressing gun violence prevention and mental health access in a comprehensive, meaningful way.

We are pleased that the president accepted American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations provided during our Jan. 3 meeting with the White House Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention.

We are also pleased that the president took action to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to research the causes and prevention of gun violence and to clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in the home.

In addition, the AAP is pleased with the administration's new national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign. These are meaningful steps that will improve the safety of the nation's children.

We believe that children deserve a safe environment in which to grow and learn. President Obama's proposals reflect the AAP's recommendations for specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents. Those proposals include a strong, effective ban on assault weapons; mandatory background checks for all firearm purchases; and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In addition to addressing firearm regulations, we must improve access to quality mental health care, both to help prevent violent acts and to assist victims of trauma. The AAP agrees with the president that we must improve the identification of mental illnesses through increased screening and address the problem of inadequate insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs that create barriers to access.

We must also strengthen the overall quality of mental health treatment and improve and expand the Medicaid reimbursement program to include mental health and developmental services. As a first step, we have been working with Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to increase mental health services in underserved rural areas.

The president acted to protect children from the horrific consequences of gun violence and traumatic events and to promote children's safety in their homes, schools and communities. Congress must show similar leadership and act promptly to pass effective legislation and regulatory measures that will significantly reduce the senseless loss of young lives.

Dr. Scott Krugman, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics and chairman of the pediatrics department at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

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