The idea that guns are dangerous to your health is not new. But it is arguably as explosive as it was in 1985, when the Institute of Medicine first made the link between guns and health.
Pediatricians have established guidelines for asking parents: Do you have guns in the home, and if so, are they locked and out of reach of children?
Some physicians and gun rights groups that oppose such questions have pushed back and say they have momentum. In July, an appeals court ruled in favor of a 2011 Florida law, nicknamed Docs v. Glocks. It bans doctors from asking their patients questions about gun ownership unless the question is deemed medically necessary. Montana and Missouri have passed similar laws.
Against this backdrop, a new Massachusetts-based group, the National Medical Council on Gun Violence, says it’s time to go beyond asking patients if they have access to a gun.
Ray Duggan, 32, a former Young Bloods gang member from Providence, told physicians at the conference about the 2004 shooting that left him paralyzed, and his work now to break up gang feuds and street violence. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)
“If people don’t know what to do when they get a ‘yes,’ then they’re never going to screen for it,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. Ranney helped organize the first continuing medical education course on gun violence, held at the Massachusetts Medical Society this past Saturday.
Ranney says it’s time to clarify the questions doctors should ask patients at risk for domestic violence, homicide, suicide or accidental gun violence, and establish the steps doctors should take to reduce the threat.
Take this example, which Dr. Ron Gross, chief of trauma and emergency surgery at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, presented to a panel of physicians at the conference.
“A mother with a chief complaint of anxiety shows up in the emergency room,” he said. “She has three kids: 5, 7 and 9. Among the things discussed is her husband’s loaded, unlocked handguns.” Continue reading