Researchers: “Is There a Gun in the House?” is not the Best Question for Doctors to Ask

patient safety

For some time now, doctors – especially pediatricians – have been asking patients about the presence of guns in the household.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, now say such a question may not be the best way to broach the subject of gun safety with young patients and their parents.

The WU researchers interviewed 1,200 parents from Missouri and Illinois and discovered that 40 percent had guns in the home, another 10 percent regularly visited homes where guns were present. Twenty-five percent admitted the guns were not securely stored and another 25 percent refused to answer.

The researchers determined that asking directly ran the risk of offending the parents, therefore making the appointment less productive. Since the research revealed that half of the children were regularly exposed to homes where guns were present, they believe it is more important to discuss overall gun safety rather than inquire as to firearms ownership.

“For a pediatrician to give [safety] advice, they don’t need to know if there is a firearm in your house, because the accident could happen at a friend’s house, or a grandparent’s house,” said Jane Garbutt, M.D., the study’s first author.

Now, the researchers are recommending pediatricians talk about gun safety like they would any other child hazard topic, such as medicine or bleach.

Have you ever had a doctor ask you about firearms in your house? Do you think a doctor should talk to your child about gun safety?