Doctors debate if they should ask patients if they own guns

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DENVER — Should doctors ask patients if they own guns? The American College of Physicians says yes, it’s a public health issue.  But others say that’s a privacy violation.

Dr. Comilla Sasson is an emergency physician at the Denver VA Medical Center. While assessing her patients, she’ll ask them about their mental health and about their access to guns.

“It’s very important to know do you have access to guns at home? Do you have firearms? Are they in a safe? Are they locked up if you have children around you? So it really just becomes part of our past medical history,” Sasson said.

She believes her questions have nothing to do with gun rights, and everything to do with public health, safety and education.

“It’s not to say you shouldn’t have a gun or anything like that. It’s just to know are you safe? Are your family members safe,” she said.

Her patient, Chris Sena, said he was surprised by the question at first, but then saw the value.

“It is very pertinent to my medical well-being,” Sena said.

But not everyone agrees.

“It’s not a medical issue,” Dan Wise said. “I don’t think it’s any of their business that I own a gun.”

It is a controversial issue, but Sasson believes it’s an important one.

“It’s such an important part of our past medical history to be able to talk open and honestly about that,” she said.

She hopes gun questions will become a normal part of a medical history.  Her goal is to reduce the amount of gun violence she sees in the ER.

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