The Smoking Gun

Do Clinicians Follow Guidelines on Firearm Safety Counseling?

Published in: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, v. 152, no. 8, Aug. 1998, p. 749-756

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1998

by Shari Barkin, Naihua Duan, Arlene Fink, Robert H. Brook, Lillian Gelberg

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This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

This study's objective was to describe clinicians' behavior regarding firearm safety counseling practices, develop a model to predict current counseling behavior, and identify resources that might positively influence willingness to counsel according to medical guidelines. Four hundred sixty-five primary care Los Angeles County, California, pediatricians, family physicians, and pediatric nurse practitioners who serve families with children aged 5 years and younger received mailed questionnaires. Of the respondents, 80% stated that they should counsel on firearm safety; only 38% do so. Of those clinicians who currently counsel, only 20% counsel more than 10% of their patient families. Firearm safety counseling behavior is positively associated with a clinician being 49 years or younger; a perception that counseling is beneficial; and household handgun ownership. clinician households that report gun ownership counsel differently than those clinicians who report not possessing a household gun. There are no significant differences in the rates of counseling across specialties and crime area types. Forty-one percent of clinicians report that patient education handouts would increase their likelihood of counseling. The report concludes that in Los Angeles County, gaps exist between clinicians' views of the benefits of counseling families with young children regarding firearm safety and their actual behavior. Guidelines and handouts are available from major medical organizations. Research should focus on how to get practitioners to use available materials, enabling them to better adhere to guidelines.

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