New Bill Seeks to Expand Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Training for Doctors

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Today Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) introduced legislation enlisting medical and mental health providers in the state’s struggle to prevent firearm violence.

“Despite objections from the NRA, doctors are well within their ‘lane’ in responding to and preventing gun violence,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “In hospitals across the state, doctors are too frequently confronted by the tragic consequences of firearm violence. It’s time we equip the medical community with the education and training they need to help prevent gun violence before these tragedies unfold.”

California experiences unacceptably high rates of firearm-related death and injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there were 3,184 gun-related deaths in California in 2017.

Under Assembly Bill 521, the UC Davis Firearm Violence Research Center would establish multifaceted firearm-safety education and training programs for medical and mental health providers, launch a comprehensive dissemination program, and conduct rigorous research and evaluation of the programs’ effectiveness.

Medical and mental health care providers – physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists, nurses, social workers, and other therapists – are uniquely positioned to help prevent all forms of firearm-related harm. Through the course of their regular patient care, they have the opportunity to identify individuals at risk for such harm, provide evidence-based counseling on risk reduction, and intervene when emergencies arise.

In October 2018, the American College of Physicians issued new recommendations for doctors to help reduce firearm violence, encouraging them to “discuss with their patients the risks that may be associated with having a firearm in the home and recommend ways to mitigate such risks.” In response, the National Rifle Association tweeted for doctors to “stay in their lane,” which sparked outcry from physicians and surgeons who took to social media to share their professional experiences with firearm-related violence and its consequences.

While many medical and mental health providers recognize their obligation to help prevent firearm-related death and injury, many cite lack of knowledge as the principal barrier to action.

In a position statement on firearm violence prevention, the California Medical Association noted that, “expanded education and training are needed to improve clinician familiarity with the benefits and risks of firearm ownership, safety practices, and communication with patients about firearm violence.” 

“Medical professionals know that appropriate discussions of firearm safety can help prevent firearm-related death and injury, and that such discussions are well within their scope of practice,” said Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Firearm Violence Research Center. “This initiative will provide them with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to help protect the health and safety of their patients and communities.”

In 2016, the Legislature directed – and approved funding for – the University of California to establish a Firearm Violence Research Center. Since then, UC Davis has assembled a team of experts in firearm-related death and injury, specifically in provider and patient education to prevent firearm-related harm.

Governor Newsom’s budget proposal extends funding for the Center, providing $1 million on an ongoing basis.


Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024