Physicians Urged To Ask Patients About Gun Ownership During Office Health Histories

A pediatric emergency medicine physician is urging doctors to join the effort for gun control by asking about gun ownership while performing health histories on their patients.

A panel titled “The Tipping Point: Activating a Public Health Movement to Address Gun Violence” was featured at the American Public Health Association (APHA)’s 2015 annual meeting in Chicago earlier in November. The panel called for a view of gun violence as a public health emergency situation.

Dr. Eric Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital – a member of the panel – echoed statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence during his presentation.

“One in five deaths in young people ages 15 to 29 are from firearms — a stunning number,” said Fleegler, as Medscape reports. “If these were deaths due to cancer, we would find this outrageous.”

Fleegler was a research principal in a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine titled “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States,” which concluded:

A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually. As our study could not determine cause-and-effect relationships, further studies are necessary to define the nature of this association.

During the APHA meeting, Fleegler said that despite his study’s findings, since the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, most state firearm laws have loosened gun control. Medscape reports that Fleegler’s statement “elicited murmurs of disbelief from the audience.”

As Breitbart News reported Friday, however, as of November 23, 2015, for example, the city of Chicago – which has severely restrictive gun control laws – has experienced 2,703 shootings resulting in 440 deaths, representing an increase of about 400 shootings over the same time last year.

“It is worth noting that while this violence proves the impotency of gun control in general, it is especially damning when juxtaposed with some of the most recent gun control endeavors in particular,” writes Breitbart News’ AWR Hawkins.

During his panel discussion, Fleegler asserted that in nearly half of households that have both a child and a gun, the gun is stored improperly. He urged “a more concentrated approach across the country” to cut the rate of gun-related injuries, a statement that reportedly drew applause from the audience.

Fleegler explained his view that doctors can play a primary role in reducing children’s access to guns.

“Pediatric offices often give out infant and child car seats. We could do this with gun lockboxes and trigger locks,” he said.

Fleegler added that, according to recent research published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, patient counseling in the doctor’s office about proper firearm storage was more likely to lead to a safe change in gun storage.

To encourage a public health approach to gun violence, Fleegler recommends that clinicians ask about gun ownership while taking patient health histories in their offices. He also calls for increased firearm legislation, including laws related to safe storage, trigger locks, and criminal background checks for all gun purchases.

Fleegler also urges that firearms be regulated as a consumer product – and thus regulated by consumer safety laws – and said an increase in the amount of data collection performed on gun-related fatalities and firearm sales would assist with more funding for firearm-related research.

According to the Medscape report, when one audience member expressed a need to change the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Fleegler responded, “I don’t think we need to change the Constitution, we just need to change how we use guns. We want to make them safe.”

“It’s insane that firearms are not regulated, considering the number of people who are maimed and killed by guns,” he told Medscape. “Teddy bears are regulated.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses gun control. Its official position on firearms asserts that the absence of firearms in homes and communities is “the most effective measure to prevent suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm-related injuries.”


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