Before the Bullets Fly: The Physician’s Role in Preventing Firearm Injury

The United States has suffered 34,516 firearm injury deaths over the past decade. 60% of these fatalities were suicides. Firearm injury deaths are proven to disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. A recent study featuring PISC Senior Scholar Elinore Kaufman, MD, MSHP, assessed the physician’s role in preventing firearm injury in the United States.

Firearm injury prevention education for all healthcare professionals would enable physicians to counsel their patients against firearm use. Hospital-based intervention programs for patients at risk of violent victimization have been proven to reduce firearm injuries and deaths. Gun-lock distribution increases the safety storage of guns from 21% to 300%. Because suicide deaths are the most common form of firearm death, separating at-risk individuals from firearms would significantly decrease fatalities. Healthcare systems can initiate violence prevention in schools and communities. Kaufman and the team conclude, “In caring for individuals injured by bullets, medical professionals must confront not only the pathophysiology of hemorrhagic shock or sepsis, but also the systemic forces and structural inequities that bring our patients through the emergency department doors.”

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