Don't be surprised if your doctor asks you about guns – The San Diego Union-Tribune

By now you are probably used to the probing questions your doctor asks during your annual checkup.

How have you been sleeping lately? Any increased stress at work? Problems at home? Have you engaged in any risky sexual activity?

Don’t be surprised if, in the future, the questioning turns to guns.

With gun violence on the rise over the past few years and mass shootings happening more frequently, physicians are making a renewed push to treat the issue as a public health crisis. And part of that begins in your doctor’s office.

Doctors, especially primary care physicians, are in a unique position to know some of the most private details of our lives, including many indicators that could suggest a higher risk of being a victim or perpetrator of gun violence.

The Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis has launched a new tool kit for doctors and nurses that teaches them how to gently introduce the topic of guns into the conversation, with a special emphasis on spotting red flags that could indicate risks for suicide, domestic violence, homicide or child access to guns.

While physicians liken the strategy to previous campaigns that involved asking patients about seat belt use or smoking, gun rights advocates see it as intrusive and a way for doctors to leverage their status in society to ultimately reduce ownership of firearms.

The “What You Can Do” initiative was conceptualized following the Las Vegas massacre in October, when a lone gunman fired indiscriminately into a crowd of concertgoers from his hotel high-rise, killing 59 and wounding 422. It is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Those who have studied mass shooters say many of them — although not all — showed warning signs of such impending violence.

The program’s founders

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