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US physicians can and should ask patients about firearms, experts argue

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2760 (Published 16 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2760
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. Seattle

Although some physicians in the US believe it is against the law to ask patients about guns, they can and should ask about patients’ access and exposure to firearms, three violence prevention experts have said in an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine.1

In 2011, the state of Florida enacted a law that said that physicians “should refrain” from asking patients about firearms and “may not intentionally enter” firearm information into medical records. Since then several other states have passed “docs vs Glocks” laws, and several others have considered legislation. The Affordable Care Act also had provisions regulating the collection of firearm information.

Proponents of these laws said that such questions violate patients’ privacy. They expressed concern that documentation of gun ownership in medical records could be used to create a registry that in turn could be used to confiscate guns and …

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