President Obama signed the credit card reform bill this week with a rider permitting guns in National parks and wildlife refuges. As a primary care physician I feel that encouraging open access to guns in yet another public venue aggravates what is already a serious public health concern. We doctors are faced with myriad medical issues related to guns, including everything from traumatic injury and homicide to suicide and domestic violence.
It is well known to all that acts of public violence are easier to commit when guns are already present. One study estimates that homicides are almost three times more likely to occur when there was a gun in the home. Firearms are found in 33-40% of American households with children. These firearms are the most common method of suicide, accounting for 52% of all such acts committed in 2005. Adolescents are 13 times more likely to commit suicide with a handgun in the home and 32 times more likely if the gun is loaded. In November, 2008 seven million people applied for criminal background checks in order to buy weapons, a figure that excludes those who purchased theirs without facing any background scrutiny at thousands of gun shows in states such as Virginia.
Our healthcare costs are bloated enough -- clearly this rider is fuel to the fire of an already burning public health problem. What are we thinking?