News Release

Doctors urged to make a public commitment to talk to their patients about guns

Embargoed news from Annals of Internal Medicine

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American College of Physicians

In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH, from the Violence Prevention Program at UC Davis, says that if Congress and the White House won't do anything to stop gun violence, then doctors must take action. In a pointed editorial published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Wintemute urges physicians to make a public commitment to talk to their patients about firearms, counsel them on safe firearm behaviors, and take further action when an imminent hazard is present.

The Call-to-Action for Physicians

Dr. Wintemute and the Editors of Annals of Internal Medicine recognize that commitments to change health-related behaviors mean more when they are made in public. They urge physicians to visit where they can fill out the form and make a public commitment to discuss firearm safety with their patients who are at risk for firearm-related injury. Once they have made their own pledge, physicians are asked to send the commentary to their colleagues and invite them to make the same commitment.

Physicians' commitments will be posted as comments to Dr. Wintemute's commentary at

Dr. Wintemute's call-to-action is supported by data. People who commit firearm violence against themselves or others often have well-recognized risk factors that bring them into contact with physicians. Substance abuse, acute injury, a history of violence (including a suicide attempt), and poorly controlled severe mental illness are all proven risk factors that offer an opportunity for intervention.

Some physicians may not feel knowledgeable enough about guns, gun laws, or the benefits and risks of gun ownership to initiate a dialog with their patients. Dr. Wintemute suggests that physicians turn to the growing literature to find the answers and resources they need.

In a second editorial, the Editors stress that while they have and will continue to publish high quality research to help inform efforts to address the health care crisis of firearm-related injury and death, the most important place where evidence is translated into preventative care is in the privacy of the examination room. The Editors urge their colleagues to commit to talking about firearm safety with their at-risk patients.

Annals has been an important resource for gun data since at least 1998. In addition to publishing recommendations from The American College of Physicians (ACP) on how to reduce firearm injury, Annals has also published rigorous reviews to help synthesize what is and is not known about gun violence. Firearms have also been the subject of several On Being a Doctor essays. The Editors show passion for this topic by repeatedly calling upon themselves and their colleagues to examine the evidence, take action, and raise their voices.


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