Feeling chest pains? Maybe it's that gun in your pocket!
April 25, 2001 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Feeling chest pains? Maybe it's that gun in your pocket! Physicians For Social Responsibility want all doctors to screen patients for gun ownership, ostensibly so that they can warn them about the physical hazards said ownership can cause. Hmmm...doctors don't do that for toasters, trampolines, hammers, paper, and other things that can harm you. I'm no gun lover - don't own one, never will, but this smacks of political agenda.
posted by davidmsc (20 comments total)
I don't want my doctor to warn me about the dangers of anything that I already know is dangerous.
posted by argybarg at 5:11 PM on April 25, 2001

I can't speak to all of medicine, but I, for one, ask all my patients' families about gun ownership and storage. I'm a pediatrician, and if asking a half-dozen questions and spending a few minutes talking about it can prevent even one kid from accidentally killing himself or his friends, then I'm happy.
posted by delfuego at 5:13 PM on April 25, 2001

Doctors, the Surgeon General and various non-profit health organizations have warned Americans about smoking over the years. I quit last year. Maybe these warnings had something to do with it? The AMA advises me to watch my blood pressure, which I do, and eat better, which I'm working on, etc. Various states still run PSAs about train crossings and the problems involved when there is a tie between a train and a motorized vehicle, etc. etc. If it's a public health issue, and doctors or some authorities don't say anything about it, then the silence smacks of a political agenda.
posted by raysmj at 5:29 PM on April 25, 2001

What sort of a health issue is this? Being shot is hazardous to your health? No shit. Do I need a doctor to tell me not to stick a fork in an electrical socket, too?
posted by dagnyscott at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2001

It's a public health issue, just as any disease is. Some doctors work on a macro level, some with a Master's of Public Health.

No, dagnyscott, you don't need a doctor to tell you that. I don't think the point is to tell people, "Hey, guns kill people." It's to educate people about gun ownership; if you have a gun in your home, probability goes WAY up that someone in your home will be shot by it. Gunshots are messy, expensive, and difficult for doctors, patients, and families to deal with. And since people generally listen to their doctor as an expert, if a doctor can speak to all of his or her patients, and one less child is killed by a gun, is it really that much political agenda?
posted by gramcracker at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2001

dagnyscott, pediatricians do exactly that at most of the well-child visits -- teaching parents to childproof their home so that kids who are just learning to grasp and explore don't electrocute themselves (among many other things).

From my perspective, the kid who kills his best friend with a gun doesn't know how dangerous the gun is, has no clue that it's a real, lethal weapon, and is a setup for a child with a ruined life.
posted by delfuego at 5:53 PM on April 25, 2001

most people don't wash their hands when they visit the restroom and yet we all know that it's one of the biggest public health benefits around. a gentle reminder doesn't hurt.
posted by greyscale at 5:56 PM on April 25, 2001

if you have a gun in your home, probability goes WAY up that someone in your home will be shot by it

This is actually untrue. It is an extrapolation of a completely debunked "study". Many people have heard the old tired drone about "43 times more likely". The reality is that a LEGAL gun in the home (an illegal gun denotes illegal activity which, BTW, DOES increase the chances of being shot) has no effect on accidental shootings.

I will admit that there is an increase in gun-suicides, but there are ample studies to prove that gun availability is NOT a factor in suicide (hint: look at Japan).

And finally, there is a shitload of evidence to prove that more guns do DECREASE crime. I know gun-haters would love to forget this VERY inconvenient fact, but it is true, incontrovertible, and survived years of pointed leftist attacks on the statistical methodologies used.

I, for one, will be looking for a new doctor if my physician brings this issue up and will be issuing a formal complaint to the hospital.

Stick to meds, guys...
posted by gunr at 7:20 PM on April 25, 2001

Gunr, you're saying you're as likely to be accidentally shot in your own home whether you own a gun or not?
Ya know, some people have become so fanatical about their guns that they can't take a suggestion that may increase the safety of their children, or themselves.
Don't worry, the doctors can't take your guns away. They may actually just want you to be safe.
posted by Doug at 7:30 PM on April 25, 2001

No honest conclusion about the safety/danger of gun ownership can honestly be reached without examing evidence of lives saved by gunusage. The mugging stopped by gunshot, the rape, the burglary etc.

Until these figures are entered into any statistical analyses, an honest conclusion will never be reached by the leftist militia.
posted by Spanktacular at 8:25 PM on April 25, 2001

Gunr, I'd love to see your data; it's funny how you don't give any specifics in your post, instead relying on using cute little quotes to cast doubt on the gun-control point of view and capital letters to lend credence to your own. last I read, though, punctuation and letter case don't decrease your P value.

For those who want to actually read hard data on this topic, I'd suggest three starters. First, there's Tim Lambert's "Do more guns cause less crime?" (available as a series of web pages or in a PDF file); it's the best resource I've found that's completely available on the web. Second, there's a review paper (PDF only) written by Daniel Webster at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research; it specifically details the methodologic flaws in the most widely-cited pro-gun study (done by John Lott and David Mustard). Lastly, there's a good article in Journal of Legal Studies ("Do Right-to-Carry Laws Deter Violent Crime?" by Dan Black and Daniel Nagin) which draws entirely different conclusions from the same data set which is used by Lott and Mustard to defend the link between weapons and decreased crime rates.

Oh, and gunr: feel free to report me to my hospital when, during your kids' well-child visits, I suggest that you either remove the guns from your home or keep them secured, unloaded, and completely inaccessible to those selfsame children. I can tell you what its response will be, though -- hospitals generally like it when their doctors practice based on well-accepted policy statements.
posted by delfuego at 8:35 PM on April 25, 2001

Speaking as a member of the medical profession, there's huge pressure on primary care docs to provide counseling regarding all manner of public health issues. Unfortunately, gun ownership becomes public health by virtue of the number of accidental shootings. Doctors also routinely ask if their patients wear seat belts and wear bicycle helmets.
posted by shagoth at 8:58 PM on April 25, 2001

Oh, yeah, gunr -- one more thing. Doctors also have to practice defensively; seeing as the families of those killed at Columbine are suing everyone and their dog, is it that far a stretch to think that doctors could also be sued for not telling the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that the guns in their house could be used for mayhem and murder?
posted by delfuego at 10:15 PM on April 25, 2001

argybarg, et al, are jerking your chain delfuego. why do you have to spell out all the obvious for them?
posted by greyscale at 10:49 PM on April 25, 2001

huh? Not jerking anyone's chain. Classic anti-gun liberal here. Wouldn't mind all handguns banned and who gives a rip what progunners think. I just don't think that just anything that could lead to death is a health issue, and I don't want to be lectured in the obvious by my physician. I don't want my doctor to tell me to drive the speed limit. I don't want my doctor to tell me to make sure not to get in a bar fight or install an antenna on a precarious roof. Piss off, you doctor, and stop being my mother.

I'd rather collaborate with him/her in approaching health as a general strategy and dealing with illnesses as they crop up.
posted by argybarg at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2001

No, dagnyscott, you don't need a doctor to tell you that. I don't think the point is to tell people, "Hey, guns kill people." It's to educate people about gun ownership; if you have a gun in your home, probability goes WAY up that someone in your home will be shot by it.

I think responsible gun owners will already have their guns locked up, and everyone else probably is on crack/an idiot and doesn't care what the doctor says, anyway.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:01 AM on April 26, 2001

I think responsible gun owners will already have their guns locked up, and everyone else probably is on crack/an idiot and doesn't care what the doctor says, anyway.

Of course the responsible gun owners will, dagnyscott. Isn't that the definition of responsible? They make good decisions (like locking them up) about their guns?

I don't think it's fair to say that every person that's lost a child (or family member) from an accidental gun death is "on crack/an idiot." First, most people aren't on crack; second, smart people make stupid decisions. And once kids are 10, if they know there's a gun in the house, they'll try to get access to it. If it's locked in a bedside table, they'll find the key. If it's hidden in the closet, they'll climb up to find it. Kids are resourceful.

And if the people are all idiots, wouldn't it make more sense that they WOULD listen to their doctor? I mean, if the doctor has all this education and degree, wouldn't most idiots cede their thought processes to a doctor? In fact, just skimming through my social psych book here, I've found several interesting studies and findings. First, credible speakers persuade people more than speakers lacking in credibility (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). People low in intelligence tend to be more influenceable than people high in intelligence (Haugtvedt & Wegener, 1994). Also, expert power comes into effect. The more expertise or knowledge a person has, the more valuable he or she will be as a guide in an ambiguous situation (Allison, 1992). Imagine, for example, the wife in the family is a gun owner, and the husband, unsure about his stance on guns, takes the children in for a checkup. The physician could hopefully educate the father about gun danger, and encourage him to either a) talk to his wife about getting rid of the gun or b) lock it up securely.

I'm not as anti-gun as some may think. I believe that gun ownership is a right (unfortunately) in our Bill of Rights, and that some people do use them responsibly and safely. But unfortunately, not all people do. And this means that guns need to be better-regulated.

Take cars. Not everyone knew how to safely operate a car way back when, so now you have to get a license, to prove that you have a reasonable amount of knowledge about the rules of driving.

Or alcohol. Not everyone is responsible about drinking alcohol, so we to regulate its consumption. If you're drinking and driving, you're endangering yourself and others, so we have laws to try to prevent people from doing it.

I'm not sure what the big problem with doctors telling this to families is. Will it be that bad for your doctor to spend another 3 minutes with you, trying to prevent you or someone you're close to from dying from your gun?
posted by gramcracker at 6:54 AM on April 26, 2001

Sorry to tell you this, delfuego, but the "John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research" is one of the most biased "research institutes" out there.

Despite the number wrangling, it is still true that areas with easy access to legal gun ownership and concealed carry have the lowest crime rates. You are much safer in Kinnesaw, GA than you are in northern California.

Before you start whining "But... but... the children!" let's look at some real facts:

Percentage of all 1998 gun deaths that involved persons under
age 20 in the ten states rated by the Children's Defense Fund as having the best laws to protect children from guns: 14.4%

Percentage from states rated as the worst: 11.2%

(Source: Harpers review, 1998 data (latest available))

You want to prevent gun deaths? The answer is simple; enforce the existing laws, and make people responsible for their actions. Access is not the cause of crime; otherwise the nation would have been overrun by gun crime in the 50's when access was basically unrestricted for anything but machine guns. Passing more laws is not the answer, unless you are going to pass some "magical" law that criminals will obey...

For other-side-of-the-fence data that is not from the hoplophobe/gunbanner view, check out GunCite.
posted by hadashi at 8:20 AM on April 26, 2001


(got it from junkscience.com). Oh, and sorry about the CAPITAL LETTERS all the time. I get carried away (love a good argument) and forget how to italicize and bold things.
posted by gunr at 12:35 PM on April 26, 2001

The name of the group itself - Physicians for Social Responsibility - should tell you this organization is about leftist political activism, not medicine. If not, their about page is all you need to read: Nothing but nuclear weapons, the environment, and guns. They more or less admit they're liberal activists; I don't see why others want to cover up for them and pretend they're only interested in medical care and education.
posted by aaron at 4:34 PM on April 26, 2001

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