As strategies to curb gun violence at the federal level have stalled, leaders in primary care and health policy have identified the role doctors can play in national gun safety efforts and the prevention of firearm suicide. In this pair of recommendation papers, clinicians place themselves at the front lines of this public health issue and offer a call to action for the medical community. Both papers lay out a grassroots course of action to help physicians engage with their patients and policy makers.
Thomas M. Wickizer and colleagues at the Ohio State University focus on the issue of firearm suicide and how improvements in primary care health screening could enhance physicians' ability to identify patients most at risk. Adding firearm safety questions to mental health screening could make firearm safety a more routine part of primary care. The authors also call on collective advocacy for policy change, recognizing the role that physician organizations have historically played in bringing about state-level drunk driving laws and regulation of tobacco advertising. In the wake of gun violence tragedies, physicians have mobilized on social media, using #ThisIsOurLane. The authors believe the medical community can harness the momentum of their online conversations to collectively influence the political discourse on firearms.
Amy Lynn McGuire and colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine and the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, identify barriers that doctors face in addressing the issue of gun safety and violence with patients. State-level legislation has attempted to prohibit physicians from inquiring about a patient's firearm ownership, resulting in long lasting fears of a "gag order" heightening physicians' concerns over potential liability. Additionally, physicians may be concerned that discussing firearm safety could break the trust they establish in the doctor-patient relationship. The authors advocate that discussions about gun safety and violence become a standard component of routine clinical care to step up the effort to protect public safety and improve public health.
The Firearm Suicide Crisis: Physicians Can Make a Difference
Thomas M. Wickizer, PhD, MPH, et al
The Ohio State University, College of Public Health, Columbus, Ohio
Physician Involvement in Promoting Gun Safety
Amy Lynn McGuire, JD, PhD, et al
Baylor College of Medicine, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Houston, Texas