Background: The high rates of death, injury, and long-term disability related to firearms in the United States have led to growing concern in the health care community. Medical organizations and journals are devoting increasing attention to firearm violence as a public health problem; however, few reports discuss physician attitudes toward guns and prevention of firearm-related injury.
Objective: To determine internists' and surgeons' attitudes toward guns and firearm injury prevention.
Design: Analysis of results of a structured telephone interview.
Setting: Internal medicine and surgical offices.
Participants: 457 internists and 458 surgeons.
Measures: 55 questions that covered six domains: experience with firearms, knowledge about clinical sequelae of firearm injury, knowledge about public policies on firearm violence, attitudes toward public policies on firearm violence, clinical practice behavior, and education and training.
Results: The interview response rate was 45.3%, with a compliance rate of 82.5% and a 95% probability (error rate, +/- 5%). Ninety-four percent of internists and 87% of surgeons believe firearm violence is a major public health issue. A majority of internists and surgeons also support community efforts to enact legislation to restrict the possession or sale of handguns (84% and 64%, respectively). Furthermore, although 84% of internists and 72% of surgeons believe that physicians should be involved with firearm injury prevention, less than 20% of respondents usually engage in some form of firearm injury prevention practice in patient care.
Conclusion: Many internists and surgeons think that firearm injuries are a public health issue of growing importance, that physicians should incorporate firearm safety screening and counseling into their practice, that physicians should join community efforts to regulate handguns, and that specific gun regulation measures should be adopted as public policy.