BOSTON — Your doctor might ask if you own a gun and lecture you on firearm safety if the state attorney general and the Massachusetts Medical Society get their way.
“Gun violence is a major public health threat and physicians can play a key role in curbing the violence by educating patients about the risks of gun ownership and encouraging our colleagues to talk to their patients,” James Gessner, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, told reporters Monday. “We are honored to work with the Attorney General and law enforcement officials in efforts to make gun ownership safer and reduce deaths and injuries attributable to guns.”
Gessner and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, unveiled an initiative designed to have doctors ask patients about gun ownership. It is part of a partnership between Healey’s office and the Massachusetts Medical Society.
“While the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and deeply committed to gun safety, this remains a public health issue, and conversations between patients and health care providers are critically important to preventing gun-related injury and death,” Healey said.
The program has the support of two groups representing the states’ police chiefs.
“Many households in our country have guns, but they can cause harm if not handled properly,” said Chief James DiGianvittorio, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. “We require the bearer of a license to carry a permit to take required safety course, however, many times other family members have no formal training. This program will at the very least open the door to conversations between physicians and patients on the risk factors associated with firearms-related injuries.”
Under the proposed policy, doctors would not report gun owners to cops. Instead, they would simply talk to them about gun safety.
“That’s why Boston Medical Center is so pleased to participate in the development of this training to help physicians talk to their patients about the safe handling and storage of guns. As a health care community, we are fully committed to ending gun violence in Massachusetts, starting in every home, and in every doctor’s visit,” said Kate Walsh, the president and CEO of Boston Medical Center.
The first step in the program will be to distribute pamphlets telling doctors about gun safety, a press release from Healey’s office stated.
“Most medical professionals believe that they can have an important role in preventing gun-related injury and death, and yet screening and counseling about guns remain uncommon,” Healey said.
The goal, she said, is to prevent gun-related accidents, self-harm and violence.
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