Internists' attitudes toward prevention of firearm injury

Ann Intern Med. 2014 Jun 17;160(12):821-7. doi: 10.7326/M13-1960.


Background: Professional organizations have called for the medical community's attention to the prevention of firearm injury. However, little is known about physicians' attitudes and practices in preventing firearm injury.

Objective: To determine internists' attitudes and practices about firearms and to assess whether opinions differ according to whether there are gun owners in a physician's home.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Internal medicine practices.

Participants: 573 internists representative of American College of Physicians' members.

Measures: Respondents' experiences and reported practice behaviors related to firearms and their opinions about contributors and public policies related to firearm violence, as well as physician education and training in firearm safety.

Results: The survey response rate was 56.5%. Eighty-five percent of respondents believed that firearm injury is a public health issue, and 71% believed that it is a bigger problem today than a decade ago. Seventy-six percent of respondents believed that stricter gun control legislation would help reduce the risks for gun-related injuries or deaths. Although 66% of respondents believed that physicians should have the right to counsel patients on preventing deaths and injuries from firearms, 58% reported never asking whether patients have guns in their homes.

Limitations: The generalizability of these findings to non-American College of Physicians' member internists and other physicians is unknown. Responses may not reflect actual behavior.

Conclusion: Most respondents believed that firearm-related violence is a public health issue and favored policy initiatives aimed at reducing it. Although most internists supported a physician's right to counsel patients about gun safety, few reported currently doing it.

Primary funding source: None.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Firearms* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine*
  • Physician's Role
  • Public Health
  • Public Policy*
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control*