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    This is why gun violence is a public health problem


    JE: Absolutely. It’s a very important issue for the College. We’ve taken a stance on this going back several years. In 2015 we issued a paper that was jointly written with other physician groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Surgeons, and even the American Bar Association signed on to that paper. It’s one of the few times when doctors and lawyers have joined forces to put together real policy.


    RELATED READING: You can't keep guns out of medical practices


    In the Annals of Internal Medicine there’s an opportunity to take a pledge. There’s a link provided, and the pledge says, “When risk factors for harm to my patients or others are present, I will ask my patients about firearm ownership and safety.” And hundreds of doctors have signed onto that. It’s encouraging physicians to include questions about firearms in their routine history and physical. For new patients it’s a very simple question, ‘Do you have firearms?” If they answer “yes,” there are some follow-up questions.

    But also for patients at risk. Those with substance abuse, those with alcohol problems, certain mental illnesses—not all—certain patients who are depressed or at suicide risk, we really need to ask questions about guns.

    Houses that have children should be included as well. And if they do have guns, the follow-up questions would be [if] the gun is safely stored and locked and the ammunition is kept separate from the guns. We think the data will show that does make a difference.

    ME: In the 1990s Congress put limits on the CDC’s ability to research gun violence. Have the ACP and other medical organizations lobbied to get that lifted?

    JE: Absolutely. We need more research on this, but there are limits to the kinds of research that’s being done by the CDC and other public health institutions and that really is one of the problems. So that is a point that’s clearly made in all our position statements, that we need more data. We need governmental agencies to do the research on this.

    It’s like any other public health problem. Ebola, for example. You really need to get in, do the research, find out what the risk factors are, and find out what the pathophysiology is. That is the way to go about addressing issues of public health.

    Next: "We need to make some progress on gun violence"


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