Q. What do we know so far about how patients regard being asked about firearms? Are they really receptive to the question?
Survey research has shown that patients, including firearm owners, are generally receptive to conversations about safe firearm storage. Patients may be more receptive when risk has been established, and when conversations happen in an established patient-provider relationship.
Patients may not believe providers to be credible sources of firearm-safety advice. Ideally, providers should prepare for these conversations by learning the risks and benefits of firearm ownership – and understanding safety recommendations that may be most appropriate in certain circumstances.
Q. Are there downsides to asking, and how can providers avoid them?
Clinicians do face time constraints that can be a barrier to asking about access to firearms and safety practices. One option is for providers to pursue a focused approach – bringing up the topic with patients who have risk factors for firearm-related injury – rather than taking a universal approach.
Q. What kind of evidence do we have so far that discussions between providers and patients are, or can be, effective in preventing firearm deaths and injuries?
Safe storage of firearms can reduce risk of firearm-related harm, and evidence suggests that conversations about firearm safety between providers and patients can increase safe-storage practices. These conversations may be most effective when safe-storage devices are provided to patients.
Going forward, we do want to comprehensively evaluate the effects of provider-initiated discussions on firearm safety, just as we want and need to conduct more research in other firearm injury prevention interventions.
Q. In addition to What You Can Do, what other kinds of measures are you working on to help guide evidence-based firearm violence prevention?
We’d invite readers to visit the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program website. It’s grown pretty robust with information about our research and findings, trends, facts vs. myths, and what’s new nationwide in the firearm violence prevention arena.
One example is the California Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which we fielded with state support last fall. The survey covered a wide range of topics related to safety, neighborhoods, firearms and firearm violence, and some initial findings are posted at health.ucdavis.edu/vprp/UCFC/Research_Findings.html. More findings are coming soon.