Asking Patients About Guns is a Loaded Question for Docs

Jacqueline Fellows, April 10, 2014

The American College of Physicians says gun-related violence is a public health problem that doctors should address with patients. But few physicians actually do.

It is time to recognize that gun-related violence is more than an endless and polarizing political debate. It is a public health problem that doctors need to start discussing with patients.

That's the unavoidable message from a new policy paper from the American College of Physicians published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Citing the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and most recently (and for a second time), at Fort Hood, Texas, ACP President Molly Cooke, MD, FACP, says physicians have a role to play in reducing gun-related injuries and deaths.

"We felt we needed to call the attention of our members and physicians in general to the regularity with which this is happening," Cooke told HealthLeaders Media. "We recognize gun ownership is a constitutional right, but we are intending to call attention to the risk associated with that right, and that people have a responsibility to manage their gun safely."

The ACP outlines nine recommendations for reducing gun-related violence, including waiting periods; a universal background check to prohibit gun sales to felons and people with a mental illness who are at risk for hurting themselves or others; a ban on assault and semiautomatic guns to civilians; safety features such as trigger locks; and more education on preventing gun injuries and death in medical schools, residency programs, and CME courses.

Jacqueline Fellows

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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