UW third-year family practice residents took on a year-long community research project to learn whether gun safety was a health issue for their patients. They asked more than 300 patients and 41 doctors and physician assistants questions about gun ownership, gun safety practices and gun safety counseling. The survey took place at the UW Medical Center-Roosevelt Family Medical Center.
The residents found that one in seven patients and one in four of their physician and physician assistant colleagues have a gun in their homes. More than half the patients with guns reported storing them unlocked, and one quarter stored loaded guns unlocked. One in five families who owned guns reported storing loaded, unlocked firearms in a household with children.
The researchers found that information on gun safety classes in the Puget Sound area was readily available by calling local gun shops or firing ranges. Two-thirds of the patients with a gun in the house had taken gun safety training. Two-thirds of the families who owned guns had talked with their kids about gun safety. Among all the gun-owning and non-gun owning families, more than half had not talked with their kids about gun safety.
While half of the patients believed doctors should counsel about gun safety, only 5 percent said their doctors had done so. The figure rose slightly, to 6 percent, if there were children in the household. Two-thirds of the doctors and physician assistants surveyed said they were not trained in or not comfortable in providing gun safety counseling.
Speaking for the residents, Chien-Wen Tseng authored a May 9 Seattle Times opinion article that discussed gun safety as a common ground for gun-owners and non-gun owners alike. Among the residents' recommendations were safety training for all gun owners, background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases, mandatory safety devices on all guns sold, and training physicians in asking patients about gun ownership and advising them on gun safety in a non-judgmental way.