It's Not a Doctor's Duty to Discuss Gun Safety With Patients

Greg A. Hood, MD


April 01, 2014

In This Article

There Are Mental Health Service Delivery Issues, Too

Of unmistakable importance, the atrociously neglected state of "mental health services" in this country is a 100-year-old legacy of failure that must be attended to robustly if issues of suicide, firearm safety, and violence are to be addressed meaningfully. These steps would necessarily include issues of financing, training, availability of psychiatrists, issues in the 40-plus-year experiment of de-institutionalizing mental healthcare, and voluntary outpatient medication, among others.

I have patients who are, or have been, owners and/or employees at gun stores. While they are not psychiatrists, and we do not have sufficient numbers of psychiatrists to staff each gun store in the United States, they have been able to readily describe some circumstances in which they have turned down requests for firearms transactions because they believed a potential threat for harm or self-harm existed. In some such examples, contacts have been made to emergency services and first responders. It is simply untrue to claim that no one has discussed not selling firearms to potentially suicidal clients or that this only happens in New Hampshire.

While gun safety is of obvious importance, it is equally obvious that today's obstacles -- including time constraints, limited resources, lack of appropriate education, excesses of regulation, liability and oversight, and potential overreach -- render physicians' offices unable to provide effective and sufficient firearm safety education.


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