Doctors v. Guns: Unreasonable

Doctors v. Guns: Unreasonable


Leonard Zwelling

I couldn’t believe it. The American College of Physicians has recommendations for how practicing doctors can lessen the impact of gun violence in America by having discussions with their patients about gun safety, gun storage and the proper place of firearms in a household that also contains children.

Just what doctors need. More to do as they click fill the EMR boxes while facing a computer screen instead of their patients.

This is wholly ridiculous.

It is up to the duly elected government representatives of the people to determine whether or not the manner in which firearms are regulated is to change in the United States. For now, it seems, those who believe that the Second Amendment guarantees their right to bump stocks and assault rifles have a dominant position with the federal and state legislatures. Doctors are not going to be able to change that. I get asking patients whether or not they use seat belts or wear helmets when they ride their bikes (actually I don’t. Is that really a doctor’s job?).

Please allow me to clarify.

To me, a doctor’s visit can have one of several purposes. The most common is to understand a particular complaint of a patient who feels ill or is in pain. What’s the cause and what’s the solution if there is one? If there isn’t, (for example, terminal cancer can present in a simple doctor visit), the doctor’s role is what one of my psychiatrists once told me it was. “Doctors help people into this world and help them out. They can handle much of what happens in between.” With this, I agree.

Doctor’s visits can also be for check-ups, especially for those with chronic health conditions where early intervention in a newly developing complication can head off further untoward events. A doctor’s visit can also be for screening purposes—a mammogram or colonoscopy.

Sometimes, a doctor’s visit can just be a checking in for a patient struggling in life and needing assistance or a sympathetic ear. All of these reasons are good ones for a doctor’s visit.

But I think society is asking too much when it asks doctors to be the paternalistic overseers of common sense. That’s what parents are for, not doctors. If you own a semi-automatic weapon, you need more than an internist to help you learn how to use it. You need a psychiatrist to help you understand why you have it and why you can’t get rid of it.

The next thing the American College of Physicians will require is for doctors to ask their patients if they remember to turn off their turn signals after they change lanes on the highway. Oh right. Cars do that now by dinging if the signal is on without a turn having been made.

Doctors have more things than ever to keep track of and more intrusive ways to document everything they do. The last thing doctors need is to act as parents for imbecilic children and adults who require the confidence boost of an automatic assault style weapon to feel safe.

Doctors have enough to do just seeing patients, keeping up the EMR, and filling out insurance forms. Now you want the docs to be the caretakers of the gun culture? I don’t think so.

How about we just get rid of the damn guns and allow the police to do their jobs. And if we are to allow handgun ownership per the Second Amendment and hunting rifles, too, how about limiting the capacity of the magazines, ending semi-automatic weapon sales, increasing all background checks, and eliminating the sale of any weapons or ammunition in the mail or through the use of the internet.

Doctors have enough to do fixing the consequences of inactive legislators when it comes to gun violence. If the people elected to do the job, won’t do it, don’t ask the docs to pick up the slack.

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