In this study, we determined patients’ attitudes toward discussing firearms and issues of firearms safety with emergency department physicians. We assessed whether patients feel discriminated against should physicians discuss firearms safety, and whether they believed that physician counseling may change how patients store firearms.
Methods: From June to October 2017, we conducted a cross-sectional institutional review board–approved survey of 200 consenting adult patients (convenience sample) not requiring critical care presenting to the emergency department of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida. The survey consisted of 22 questions about perceptions of physicians inquiring about firearms, demographics, firearms statistics, and firearms knowledge. Results on firearms owners and nonowners were compared with the Fisher exact test. P < 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Ninety percent of patients said they felt comfortable discussing firearms safety with a physician (firearms vs no firearms owner, 100% vs 87.5%, P = 0.028). Ninety percent (firearms 90.7% vs no firearms owners 89.9%, P = 1.0) of patients did not believe that physicians were discriminating against patients who are firearms owners when discussing firearms safety. Seventy-six percent (firearms 76.4% vs no firearms owners 77.3%, P = 0.367) of patients believed that physicians should be educating their patients about firearms safety, and 71% (n = 142) believed that education provided by physicians will change how people store their firearms (firearms 75% vs no firearms owners 70.2%, P = 0.67).
Conclusions: Firearms safety is a difficult but important public health matter that requires significant intervention to help prevent future firearms incidents. This study supports physicians’ efforts to help educate patients about the dangers of firearms, along with proper firearms storage techniques, showing that patients are largely open to this discussion. We propose that training of physicians in strategies for initiating clinical discourse and addressing firearms safety is needed.