Opinion: Physicians should ask patients about their guns

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Physicians are uniquely poised to help prevent firearm violence and should discuss guns with their patients, according to physicians writing for the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Just like any other health conversation a physician and patient might have — such as those about nutrition, alcohol use and seatbelt use — having a conversation about firearm safety can be an effective way to help prevent firearm-related injuries.

Though physicians may be concerned state or federal laws prohibit discussing firearm usage with patients, this is not the case, the physicians wrote. With rare exceptions, physicians can ask patients about firearms, provide counsel and disclose patient information to third parties when necessary.

The authors also flagged several instances in which physicians should ask patients about guns, even if they do not routinely discuss them with their patients. These instances include a patient exhibiting behavior that suggests increased risk of violence, or if the patient has other risk factors for violence, such as alcohol abuse.

 

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