Physicians and Gun Violence

guns in the home, physicians and guns

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New polling from SERMO explores physicians and gun violence: how and when doctors feel they should intervene.

As of 2010, 61 percent of deaths by firearm were suicides. While guns are part of the story of violence in the US, they are far from the whole picture. While 38,364 Americans committed suicide that year, 487,700 people were treated in emergency rooms for self-inflicted injuries.

Our physicians pointed out the need to look at the big picture. One family practitioner wrote:

“There are so many ways to off oneself or someone else, that narrowing the focus to one method of death is a disservice. If they have [suicidal or homicidal thoughts] I usually just ask what their plan is. If they say a gun, then we get rid of them, if they say pills then we get rid of them, with a car, don’t drive and give someone your keys. “

Overall 45 percent of physicians ask about gun access in the home only if they suspect mental health issues and 34 percent regularly ask about gun access in the home. One doctor noted it was on her new patient intake form so they have the information if an issue arises.

What do you think about physicians asking about firearms or other ways to inflict self-harm or harm others? As a physician, do you ask new patients as they enter your practice or do you wait until you see an issue? At what point do you refer to a psychiatrist or to law enforcement?

We will be discussing this issue and more inside the Sermo community. If you are an M.D. or D.O. please join us.


Center for Disease Control: Suicide Data sheet

National Institute of Health: Literature review of self-inflicted injuries

World Health Organization: Self-directed violence

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