According to new research, the dramatic surge in gun sales since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to more suicide by gun, intimate partner violence, and surging violence in communities around the country. To address this growing problem, leading public health organization Doctors for America and statewide gun violence prevention organization CeaseFirePA have created a series of samples for telehealth visits where physicians discuss in-home gun safety, firearms increasing the risk of completed suicide attempts, and other dangers with fictional patients.
“With the recent surge in gun sales during the COVID-19 crisis, there is a real concern that we will see an increase in gun violence,” said Grace Walter, MD, Doctors For America Gun Violence Action Team member. ”It is important to remember that even with telehealth we need to ask patients about their and their family members’ access to guns and to educate them about gun safety,”
Each video focuses on a different healthcare visit scenario–domestic violence, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, mental health issues, and safe storage of firearms–chosen because of their increased relevance in the wake of COVID-19.
In 2018, after the National Rifle Association tweeted that doctors “should stay in their lane” in response to a position paper discussing gun violence released by the American College of Physicians, medical professionals stood up and cried “This is our lane!”. Medical professionals’ perspective comes from the front lines of gun violence where they regularly witness the unforgettable damage from bullet wounds in the operating room. They are also often the first to inform family members they lost a loved one to a gun. This vocal and growing movement of medical professionals has spoken out about the public health consequences of gun violence, including testifying before the U.S. Congress in 2019.
“Until lawmakers treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is, doctors know that they need to step up to save more lives,” said Max Milkman, CeaseFirePA’s Program Specialist. “These videos are our way to help make that job easier for them.”
While the clear majority of Americans wait for action, the failure for policy action requires doctors to step up in another way to help save lives. The brand new videos should help doctors carefully open a conversation about gun safety, including safe storage in the home and temporarily removing firearms from individuals who may harm themselves or others, with patients.