Perceived roles of Emergency Department physicians regarding anticipatory guidance on firearm safety

J Emerg Med. 2013 May;44(5):1007-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.11.010. Epub 2013 Jan 24.


Background: Several professional medical societies advocate for firearm safety counseling with patients. Little is known about Emergency Physicians' practices and perceptions of firearm safety counseling.

Objective: To assess Emergency Physicians' beliefs regarding firearm control and their confidence in counseling patients on firearm safety.

Methods: A national random sample (n = 500) of the members of the American College of Emergency Physicians was sent a valid and reliable questionnaire on firearm safety counseling.

Results: Of the 278 (56.8%) responding physicians, those who were non-white and those who were not members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) perceived firearm violence to be more of a problem than white physicians and those who were members of the NRA. The majority did not believe that patients would view them as a good source of information on firearm safety (63.3%) or that patients would accept them providing anticipatory firearm safety guidance (56.5%). The majority of the Emergency Department physicians did not believe firearm safety counseling would impact firearm-related homicides (75.2%) or suicides (70%).

Conclusions: The vast majority of Emergency Physicians had never been formally trained regarding firearm safety counseling, did not believe patients would see them as credible sources, and did not believe that anticipatory guidance on firearm safety would have any impact. These data may help inform Emergency Medicine residency programs on the training needs of residents regarding anticipatory guidance on firearm safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Counseling*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role*
  • Safety*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult