Understanding the Role of Law in Reducing Firearm Injury through Clinical Interventions

J Law Med Ethics. 2020 Dec;48(4_suppl):146-154. doi: 10.1177/1073110520979416.


Firearm injury in the United States is a public health crisis in which physicians are uniquely situated to intervene. However, their ability to mitigate harm is limited by a complex array of laws and regulations that shape their role in firearm injury prevention. This piece uses four clinical scenarios to illustrate how these laws and regulations impact physician practice, including patient counseling, injury reporting, and the use of court orders and involuntary holds. Unintended consequences on clinical practice of laws intended to reduce firearm injury are also discussed. Lessons drawn from these cases suggest that physicians require more nuanced education on this topic, and that policymakers should consult front-line healthcare providers when designing firearm policies.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling
  • Duty to Warn
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Gun Violence / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Mandatory Reporting
  • Physician's Role*
  • Professional Practice / ethics*
  • Professional Practice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control*