June 13, 2016 – Asking About Guns


Anchor lead: Physicians can and should ask about guns, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Florida’s gag order notwithstanding, physicians are empowered to ask patients about guns, a recent analysis of the legalities surrounding the practice in Annals of Internal Medicine concludes. Mike Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says doctors should keep a few things in mind.

Klag: We should provide information, not just be an inquisitor, we should provide information about risk of firearms, and there are certain situations where it’s in a sense medically necessary to ask.  One would be where those who are at the acute, in the near term risk for violence for themselves or others, people who have a history of alcohol use or drug abuse or a history of violence, and then people who are broadly in a demographic group that are at increased risk for violence from unintentional firearm injuries.  :26

Those likely to suffer unintentional harm from guns include children and adolescents. Klag says patients and parents need to be aware that such inquiries are not a judgment but rather an assessment of potential harm.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.