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After too many mass murders involving guns in the U.S., more than 1,000 physicians have signed a pledge published in the Annals of Internal Medicine to proactively raise the issue of firearms safety with patients. Annals moved to offer the pledge in light of evidence that many people killed by guns (including suicides) were in contact with their healthcare provider shortly before their deaths. Ironically, the idea of publishing the pledge was raised well before the most recent carnage at a Florida high school; it was first discussed internally after last year’s sniper-like attack on Las Vegas concertgoers. In an accompanying editorial, Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH, an emergency physician at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program, noted that patients who ultimately engage in firearm violence often present with risk factors such as abuse of alcohol and a history of violence. Wintemute wrote that “the relationship between fatal violence and recent contact with a health professional is clearest for people who commit suicide: As many as 45% have seen their primary care provider within a month of their deaths.” (For an urgent care perspective on the debate over access to handguns, read Guns and Urgent Care: How to Respond to Evolving Open-Carry and Concealed-Carry Laws in the JUCM archives.)

A Thousand-Plus Doctors Pledge to Talk to Patients About Firearms
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