Physicians weigh in on controversy over gun safety questions

The controversy over whether doctors should ask patients about gun ownership and gun safety continues on the state and national level.

Massachusetts physicians are among the latest to weigh in on the dangers, according to a CommonHealth report. The Massachusetts Medical Society has decided to focus its attention this year on gun safety as a public health issue. During a forum this week, the state's Attorney General Maura Healey said she hopes to partner with the group to reduce gun deaths. She criticized a Florida law now being contested in the courts that limits when doctors can discuss guns with patients.

"Physicians ask patients about everything from use of seat belts to alcohol and drug use to vaccinations," Healey said, according to CommonHealth. "For God's sake, you mean physicians should be precluded from asking about the most lethal consumer product out there: a gun? That's just wrong."

The medical society plans to craft a set of uniform questions that doctors can ask patients about guns. Many physicians are opposed to the Florida law passed in 2011 that prevents pediatricians from asking patients whether there is a gun in the home and if it is secure.

Nationally, a coalition of 141 medical organizations  has called on Congress to restore funding for gun violence research, according to The Trace. The medical groups sent a letter to four senior members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees Wednesday urging them to restore funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for research into gun violence.

The coalition called for rescinding a 1996 law that prevents the CDC from using funding to "advocate or promote gun control," which is widely seen as a cause of the agency's reluctance to study gun violence, the report indicated.

Two California doctors are among those speaking out in opposition to the Florida law. In a commentary published last week in The Washington Post, Angela Zen, a resident physician, and Alice Kuo, an associate professor of internal medicine and pediatric at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said it is important for parents to tell their child's physician if they own a gun. "For us as pediatricians, the issue isn't ownership, it's safety. And when we're able to talk to parents about gun storage, we have the potential to save lives," they wrote.

To learn more:
- read the CommonHealth article
- check out The Trace article
- here's the commentary