From the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.
Controversies section editor: Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, Senior Editor.
DURING A VISIT for preventive care, a patient asks, "If
I buy a gun, will it increase or decrease my risk of dying prematurely?" What
evidence should the physician seek in formulating a response?
A firearm can potentially offer both benefits and risks to the health
of its owner. Balancing risks is something that clinicians commonly do in
medicine. For example, when considering a prescription for hormone replacement
therapy, clinicians must weigh a somewhat higher risk for endometrial cancer
against a lower risk for heart disease. Although the pros and cons of gun
ownership have been the subject of impassioned debate, using an evidence-based
approach to address the patient's question is appealing.
Cummings P, Koepsell TD. Does Owning a Firearm Increase or Decrease the Risk of Death?. JAMA. 1998;280(5):471-473. doi:10.1001/jama.280.5.471