Objectives: To ascertain and compare beliefs, attitudes, and counseling practices of primary care physicians of children and adolescents regarding firearm injury prevention counseling.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: State of Washington.
Subjects: All active members of the state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians. A total of 979 pediatricians and family physicians (53%) responded to the survey after two mailings.
Main outcome measures: Attitudes, beliefs, and current practices with regard to firearm safety counseling among families of child and adolescent patients.
Results: Only 25% of pediatricians and 12% of family physicians currently counsel more than 5% of their patients. Pediatricians were more likely than family physicians (70% vs 46%, P < .001, chi 2 test) to believe that physicians have a responsibility to counsel families about firearm safety. Pediatricians recommended removing guns from the home more frequently than family physicians (32% vs 19%, P < .001, chi 2 test), but most physicians of both specialties perceived that parents are rarely receptive to this advice. However, 97% of physicians from both specialties agreed that firearms should be stored locked separately from ammunition, and a substantial majority believed that parents would be receptive to this advice. Compared with physicians who owned guns (32%), non-owners were 15 times more likely (odds ratio, 15; 95% confidence interval, 10 to 23) to agree that families with children should not keep firearms in the home.
Conclusions: Few primary care physicians who see children and adolescents currently counsel families about firearm safety, although many agree that they have such a responsibility. At least half of these physicians would potentially benefit from an intervention to improve their knowledge of and counseling skills on this topic.