HealthDay News — Physicians should make a public commitment to speak with their patients about firearms, according to an opinion piece published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In light of the most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Garen J. Wintemute, MD, MPH, from the UC Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, California, discussed actions that physicians can take to stop firearm violence.

Wintemute notes that physicians should ask patients about firearms, counsel them on safe behaviors, and take further action in the case of imminent danger. This intervention can be focused, as people who commit firearm violence and those who sustain it often have well-recognized risk factors that may bring them into contact with physicians.

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These factors include alcohol and controlled substance abuse, acute injury, a history of violence (including a suicide attempt), poorly controlled severe mental illness, an abusive partner, and serious life stressors. Barriers to talking about firearms with patients include concern about not knowing enough about firearms or about the benefits and risks associated with owning and using them, a perception of not having time, and incorrectly believing that such conversations are prohibited by law.

“With all that in mind, here is what you can do right now to help stop firearm injury and death: Make a commitment to ask your patients about firearms when, in your judgment, it is appropriate, and follow through,” Wintemute writes.

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Wintemute GJ. What you can do to stop firearm violence [published online October 17, 2017]. Ann Intern Med. doi: 10.7326/M17-2672