Now, Your Doctor Will Ask About Your Gun

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Healthcare workers in more and more places have been asking incoming patients about their guns. Sometimes, the injury they’re being treated for has nothing to do with guns or firearms, but the doctors will ask about it anyway and even offer safety pamphlets. Let’s see what’s led to this response.

Over 48,000 People Died from Guns in 2021

The last year that complete statistics were available for gun deaths was 2021. In that year, the CDC reported that 48,830 died from gun-related injuries in the United States.

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Guns have become a severe problem. In some states, easy access to guns has been blamed for a large amount of violence. In other areas, even with low access to firearms, there’s still gun violence present.

Doctors Are Treating Firearm Injuries as a Public Health Issue

When people enter healthcare facilities, the doctors will usually ask them questions about public health, including their personal habits that could affect treatment.

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In addition to the typical questions about smoking and drinking, doctors at some facilities will now ask about firearm ownership as an additional question and even offer safety pamphlets.

Health Care Providers Need to Act

An increasing number of healthcare providers are including these questions. They’re not doing this just to gather information but to raise awareness of the issue.

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The CDC and National Institutes of Health have started offering grants for prevention research. The seriousness of this issue is pervading the public health system little by little.

Counseling is Part Of the Response

When a medical professional asks a visitor about their firearms, it’s part of the response that the public health system is trying to provide. The more people know about the risks and dangers, the less likely irresponsible use will occur.

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As one doctor put it, it’s similar to telling people to wear a seatbelt while driving or not to operate heavy machinery while on medication. Not playing around with a loaded gun should also fall into that category.

Secure Storage Is Also Addressed

Some gun injuries and deaths occur because of poorly secured guns within the home. Allowing a child access to a gun could lead to unforeseen dangers or even death.

Source: Flickr/Mitch Barrie

As part of medical providers’ initiative, they intend to highlight better gun storage and give owners more information about how their guns should be kept secure.

Evidence For Positive Results

Even though it might seem strange, there is some evidence for patients heeding the words of doctors when they’re told about securely locking their guns. But there’s a catch.

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In any situation, it would be weird for a doctor to simply start talking about locking up your guns. Doctors search for an easy, casual way to broach the subject during treatment.

Treating Guns like Cigarettes

In the 90s, when lung cancer numbers spiked, doctors approached the problem of cigarettes with the advice to quit them. They would even help people find ways to maintain their health.

Source: Medium

A lot of doctors think that they should consider doing the same with guns. Declaring guns a public health hazard and advising people to quit them might have some impact. Most might think it’s a joke.

Homes With Kids Should Never Have Guns

In the 2010s, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents that they should never have a gun in a home with a child since it was likely the child could get hold of the firearm.

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Despite this, doctors don’t really have much sway when it comes to warning the public about guns. A survey in 2016 saw the public rank doctors just above celebrities when it came to advice about guns.

Laws May Stop This Information Flow

The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, but doctors technically don’t need that information to do their job. Some laws have toyed with the idea of stopping these questions to patients.

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Florida managed to pass such a law in 2011, but the federal government deemed it unconstitutional and struck it down. Still, these laws make physicians wary about talking about guns.

Doctors Know Firearm Safety is Important

A recent study shows that many doctors know that speaking about firearm safety with patients is crucial, but they’re also not sure how to broach the subject without sounding strange.

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On the other hand, many patients say it’s not something they expect to hear from their physician. In 2019, only 8% of firearm owners said their doctor said anything to them.

Teaching Medical Personnel to Talk About Firearms

Also, in 2019, California saw a revolutionary new instruction method regarding firearms. The BulletPoints Project, funded by the state, helped physicians bridge that communication gap.

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The project tells physicians to keep their personal opinions and politics out of the decision and asks patients who have a reason to be extra cautious about their firearms.

Testing With Specific Aims

Some doctors are testing whether it’s better if doctors only broach the question of firearms in particular situations. Johns Hopkins is only offering advice and gun locks in case of pediatric patients with traumatic injuries.

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Northwell Health is doing a more blanketed approach, where everyone who comes in is asked the questions, and gun locks are offered to people who need them.

Conversations Will Become Routine

With so many health providers doing this, there will come a time when talking about whether you own a gun to your medical professional will become second nature.

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As many medical professionals now believe that the safest home for a kid is one without a gun, gun locks might become a regular item that people leave the ER with after a visit.

Will This Stigmatize Gun Ownership?

Some medical professionals are against the idea altogether. They say it’s a move by the CDC to stigmatize gun ownership and that there’s no reason for doctors to enquire about their patients’ gun ownership if it has nothing to do with their injury.

Source: Flickr/Patrick Breen

Injecting politics into healthcare is a dangerous approach. While doctors must remain objective in their discussions, even having those discussions could impact their patients’ opinions.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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