by Steve Byas
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Recent shootings, such as in the Pittsburgh synagogue, are the justification cited by Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP), for doctors getting involved in the gun debate. According to Dr. Lopez, such incidents illustrate “how important and poignant it is for there to be policies that can be really effective in keeping guns away from both those who are either a risk to themselves or to others.”
Accordingly, the ACP released some recommendations this week on how doctors can play a role in reducing “gun violence.” Specifically, the ACP wants physicians to pry into whether their patients have guns in the home, so they can offer them counsel on gun safety, and in some cases, report them to the police.
“Firearm-related injuries and deaths really continue to be a part of what is harmful to patients and families,” Lopez said.
But the ACP wants more than just friendly advice from your family doctor. The ACP has supported “appropriate regulation of the purchase of legal firearms to reduce firearms-related injuries and death,” as well as more child access prevention laws that would hold the owners of firearms accountable for the safe storage of their guns.
In addition, ACP advocates for laws banning the manufacture, sale, transfer, and even ownership of so-called rapid-killing semiautomatic firearms for civilian use.
Along with asking patients about guns in the home, ACP favors new laws (popularly known as “red flag laws”) that will allow families and law enforcement to petition a court to “temporarily” remove firearms from individuals who may be a risk to themselves and others. In other words, if a doctor were so inclined, he could turn his patient in to the cops, if he suspected that patient should be stripped of his right to have a gun in the home. While some might argue that physicians could be expected to only take such steps in extreme cases, the reality is that a doctor motivated enough to ask such intrusive questions about guns is much more likely to be an anti-gun rights crusader.
Dr. Lopez attempts to justify this war on the private ownership of firearms arguing, “We speak with our patients about, ‘do you use a seat belt?’ If they ride a bike or ride a motorbike, ‘do you use a helmet?’ So, these are public health issues, and it’s similar to ask patients if there’s a gun in the home.”
Actually, I have never been asked such questions by my doctors, and if I were I would probably find a different doctor. It would seem rather strange to me to visit a physician for an upper-respiratory infection and be asked if I use a seat belt.
Another physician, Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency-room physician in California, agreed with the recommendations, noting, “I talk with patients about firearms almost every shift I work as an emergency physician.”
David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard, also supported the recommendations, arguing, “The evidence is overwhelming that firearm violence in the United States — firearms killing people, scaring people, injuring people — is an enormous public health problem.”