Physicians Need To Stop Talking Just To Each Other About Guns

Gun owners, particularly the more activist gun owners, tend to be prolific bloggers.  Partly this is because they often believe themselves to be an “oppressed minority,” whose vies on guns aren’t reliably reported by the media; partly because guns still aren’t a “mainstream” item in many areas which prompts gunnies to create their own, alternate communication channels.  You can catch a flavor of this mentality in Brian Patrick’s The National Rifle Association and the Media, a book whose arguments I don’t necessarily agree with, but it nevertheless gives some good  insights into the gun-owning frame of mind.

I make a point of reading several gun blogs every day to keep up with what the “other side” has to say.  Many of the blogs are basically advertising vehicles whose content is comprised mainly of cut-and-paste entries from other blogs or sites.  My personal favorite is CalGuns, which seems to attract a fairly literate audience that not only refrain from much of the in-your-face rhetoric that characterizes so much of the current gun discussion (thanks to Ted Nugent, et. al.) but also gives space to interesting and informed questions that do need to be confronted in the gun debate.

docs versus glocks                For me and many of the readers of my blog, a major issue involves the role of physicians in dealing with the violence caused by guns.  I don’t really think there’s any connection between the NRA’s opposition to Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General and the possible outbreak of Ebola in the United States.  But I do believe that a pernicious trend exists to prohibit medical inquiries about gun ownership now that the Florida gag law has appeared in Missouri and will surely spread beyond.  It’s pernicious first of all because it fosters a wholly uninformed, stupid and reactionary view of the role of physicians in their everyday work, and it’s also pernicious because it is the foundation of a cynical marketing strategy to make consumers believe that guns are just another, all-American way to have fun.  I beg to differ with the NSSF, but the AR-15 just isn’t the Millennial version of the Daisy Red Ryder and we shouldn’t be creating a generation that will hope to find one on Christmas Day sitting under the tree.

In that respect the CalGuns blog posted an interesting thread yesterday that read: “My sister took my niece to the doctor the other day and they asked her if there are firearms in the house. Is that legal in California?”  The writer went on to reference the Florida gag law which, if nothing else, shows that he has some awareness of events beyond himself, and most of the responses he received were also fairly cogent and informed.  One writer differentiated between “legal” as opposed to “appropriate,” another suggested that the patient ask the physician “in a nice manner” why the question was being asked, a third poster stated that he would be concerned that perhaps the doctor suspected “foul play.”

These comments demonstrate to me that there are lots of gun owners who simply don’t understand the reasons why, medically speaking, physicians need to ask patients about access to guns.  And it doesn’t work to simply explain this lack of understanding because of the NRA’s demonizing of physicians over the past twenty years.  It seems to me that physicians, medical organizations and the medical establishment in general need to do a better job of explaining their role and responsibilities in dealing with the violence or potential violence caused by guns.  When the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes a statement about gun violence on their website, do they ask themselves whether the commentary will be picked by the readers of CalGuns?  As long as physicians only talk to other physicians about gun violence the NRA will own the argument about physicians and guns.


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