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GLOCK 43 in an Uncle Mike's holster (courtesy

Doctor Timothy Wheeler, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, writes [via]

MD Magazine, a New Jersey-based website for medical doctors, recently conducted a poll of 1,700 physicians (of whom 901 responded) on their views about guns. Results were mixed but tended to strip away the false veneer of hoplophobia that the medical establishment perpetually tries to stick on us . . .

No one should rely on this poll as definitive.  The sample population was limited to readers of MD Magazine, a major selection bias.  The questions were poorly crafted and appear to demonstrate the prejudice and simple ignorance of the authors.  Here I am being charitable, declining to attribute to these authors the sordid motives of other mainstream media people who deliberately conflate semiautomatic and fully automatic firearms, use the media buzzword “gun violence,” and otherwise seek to deceive their readers.

Still, the answers shed some light on what doctors really think.

Here are the poll questions.  The physician-respondents themselves had hundreds of comments. Many expressed anger and frustration at a medical establishment (medical organizations and their many sympathizers in the major media) that is overwhelmingly opposed to firearm civil rights. Percentages may total less than 100% because respondents skipped some questions.

Question 1—Do physicians have a role to play in curbing gun violence?

A clear majority of 43.6% responded “no”, with 40.3% saying “yes.” Fully 145 of the 901 doctors who responded to this question left comments. Of those 145 comments, 51% could be classified as reinforcing the “no” position.

This “no” group included doctors who unequivocally said doctors should not get involved with this political issue, those who thought that role should be limited to the dangerously mentally ill, and a few “yes” responders who said physicians should encourage their patients to get a concealed carry permit or take training from the NRA.

One responder on the “no” side commented “This is a personal matter for the patient and is a boundary violation to intrude on it by the physician.”  This tells me that DRGO’s outreach on this matter has percolated into the physician population (see the DRGO resource article “Boundary Violation: Gun Politics in the Doctor’s Office” and recent blog entry “Volokh Conspiracy on Wollschlaeger—The Doctor’s Dissent.”)

Question 2—Should the American Medical Association take a stand on gun control? 

Respondents overwhelmingly repudiated this notion with 57.65% saying “no” and only 42.35% saying “yes.”  Among the comments, again a mixed bag, were “Focus your efforts on curing diseases please,” “None of their business,” and “This undermines the influence of the AMA. It should stick to medicine.”

Question 3—Have you ever asked patients whether they have a gun in the home? 

This question fails to distinguish between legitimate, health-based inquiries such as to a dangerously mentally ill patient and garden-variety AMA and AAP-style anti-gun patient propagandizing.

Still, 57.75% of the doctors answered “no” and 42.25% “yes.”  Of the 106 comments, many indicated that “yes” meant only in case of a suicidal or homicidal patient.  The strong “no” response taken together with the high number of very qualified “yes” responses as described indicates a clear aversion among practicing doctors to acting as gun prohibition agents for the AAP and AMA.

One comment summarizes this opinion:

“I am strongly in favor of laws prohibiting medical providers from asking this question. I believe it should be a ‘loss of license’ offense to enter any such information into an EMR system.”

It is exactly this strong political opinion among the population (doctors included) that resulted in Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act.

Question 4—Do you own a gun?

Many doctor-respondents skipped this question (57). Of the 871 who did answer, a decisive 55.34% said “yes” and 44.66% “no.”  One plausible explanation for this high non-response rate could be rightful concerns about violations of gun owners’ privacy. Similar problems have been identified in determining an accurate number of defensive gun uses in other surveys.

In any case, this informal poll tends to confirm that gun ownership is the default status of American doctors. This militates against the image that the medical establishment relentlessly pushes of American doctors serving as social warriors against gun ownership.

Question 5—If you own a gun, do you use it for sport or personal protection?

More doctors (446) skipped this question than any of the other questions. This was likely out of concern for privacy.  But of the 486 who did answer, 65.15% claimed “personal protection” and 34.85% “sport.”  Many of the 177 commenters claimed both reasons.

Question 6— Do you support stronger gun control measures?

The 126 comments made it clear what a poorly worded question this was. The prevailing message from the comments was best summarized by this one: “Depends what ‘measures’ means.”  The 53.33% “yes” and 46.67% “no” responses should be considered of limited meaning, given the equally meaningless question.

Question 7— Which forms of gun control (if any) do you support?

This was probably the least meaningful question in the entire poll. It allowed only answer choices that were mostly media buzzwords. A whopping 320 of the physician-respondents skipped this question, likely because the only possible answers only poorly represented their true opinions.

The multiple choice answers and responses were:

  • Increased background checks  – 93.75%  The obvious question not asked was “Increased compared to what?” Very few people who haven’t bought a gun have any clue just how thorough the current background check system is. Very few know what a BATF Form 4473 is, or that every gun purchaser must fill one out, and to lie on the form is a felony.  It’s a safe bet that nearly none of them know that every gun purchaser must literally get permission from the FBI through that agency’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
  • “I am strongly in favor of laws prohibiting medical providers from asking this question. I believe it should be a ‘loss of license’ offense to enter any such information into an EMR system.” What additional “increased background checks” would the 93.75% suggest? We don’t know, because the pollsters neglected to supply the respondents with these critical facts. Nor were respondents prompted to consider that violent criminals in need of a gun simply don’t bother with background checks of any kind.
  •  A ban on assault weapons – 68.91%  Really?  The folks at MD Magazine are content to spread the gun prohibition movement’s propaganda in polling their readers?  Either they are exceptionally ignorant or they have a special contempt for the intelligence of their readers.
  • Limits on magazine sizes – 61.51%  Again it’s likely that a significant fraction of respondents associate so-called high capacity magazines with “assault weapons,” with all the disinformation that goes with that media-contrived term.
  • A ban on concealed weapons – 41.45%  It is not surprising that this “gun control” measure enjoys the lowest support of all.  The right to carry seems permanently embedded in America’s culture and laws by now.

This last question drew the greatest number of comments (221), possibly because it is nothing but a parroting of the gun prohibition movement’s talking points, myths and all. I suggest readers peruse those comments just to see the strong overall opposition of these doctors to any further gun control measures.

This commenter summarized the doctors’ opinions well: “None of these measures will curb gun violence because those who are responsible will NOT follow the laws.”

At DRGO we couldn’t agree more.

Timothy Wheeler
Timothy Wheeler

—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.


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  1. My doctor in California was definitely anti-gun. When we moved to Utah, two years ago, my doctor and his nurses all hunt. Yet, one of the intake questions on my first appointment was, “Do you own a gun?” I was told I did not have to answer the question, and that it came from the health service and not the doctor.

    • “I was told I did not have to answer the question, and that it came from the health service and not the doctor.”

      One of the things about the ACA I fear is that an answer to that question will eventually be *required* and that lying about it will be grounds for prosecution..

      You think that will never happen?


      • I don’t think it’ll be grounds for prosecution; it will probably become “optional” in the same way a Social Security number is optional. You only need to provide it if, for instance, you actually want medical care. If you’d rather suffer through poor health and die early, well, that’s up to you.

  2. “Question 4—Do you own a gun?

    Many doctor-respondents skipped this question”

    I’ll wager a healthy percentage of those refusing to respond have no interest in announcing their firearm ownership.

    And that goes as well to the Progressives who deny they own guns, wanting to be seen by other Progressives as ‘Good Little Progressives’ that toe the party line…

  3. I am an Anesthesiologist.
    I would say that my department has 90% gun owning doctors.
    Our surgeons are probaly 75% gun owners.
    I have introduced several of our surgeons, nurses, and techs to guns and gun ownership.
    I would say that it is “No Glocks for Docs” due to the need to pull the trigger to field strip them, and the lack of a thumb safety.
    Glocks are number one for negligent discharges for a variety of reasons.
    If they want a striker fired pistol, I steer them toward one with a thumb safety.
    I understand all the reasons given for no thumb safety, but as I do the balance between safe carry and readiness for use, I come down on the safety needing one tenth of a second to flick off.

    • Sure it isn’t due to the high number of pistols in circulation rather than their lack of an external safety?

    • “Glocks are number one for negligent discharges for a variety of reasons.”

      No, they are number one for ONE reason. They are the number ONE pistol.

  4. I am an orthopedic surgeon in FL. The conversation about guns usually comes out during my patient’s visits. Maybe it’s because my waiting room is stacked with gun magazines. Many times, while examining a patient, I feel something hard around the waist (at 3’0 clock position). It’s usually a gun. Other times I admonish my CCW patients for NOT bringing their guns to the office visit. Hey, if the fecal matter hits the fan I don’t want to be the only one responding.
    One time a very nice Muslim Egyptian (veteran soldier of the Gulf War I)patient of mine was so appreciative (I think) of the results of his surgery that he asked me if he could bring his decked-out AR-15 to the office so that I could see it. I respectfully declined his generous offer because of the uncertain response my waiting room patients would experience. True story.

  5. This web magazine appears to cater to primary care and medical specialists. Based on personal work experience I agree with a couple of the doctors who have written in — if the poll had been in a magazine oriented toward surgeons, the percentage of owners would be higher and there would be much less interest in limiting magazine capacity, banning “assault” weapons, etc. I credit a couple of surgeons with piquing my interest in firearms through their discussions of the guns they owned (varied including Class 3 full automatics), why they owned them (mostly personal protection, SHTF, and target sport), and how they made sure their family members knew how to use them as well (especially teenage children who the dad’s personally trained and supervised).

  6. A clear majority of 43.6% responded “no”
    Do doctors not have to learn math any longer? 43.6% is not a majority, it’s a plurality.

  7. Large organizations such as the AMA and the APA (and the ABA for that matter) are run by anti-gun progressives who could not care less what their members think. I recall reading, for example, that despite at least half of its members being in opposition, the ABA formed an anti-gun committee. The APA has been out front in “suggesting” (strongly is too kind a word) that all pediatricians use a questionnaire that asks parents about gun ownership, and was the lead in opposing the Florida law mentioned above and the subsequent legal attacks on it. So I am not surprised by these poll results–doctors are divided into anti and pro gun camps the same as any other group of people.

  8. I’ve never had a doctor ask me about guns in any other context but to ask me how my last match went and to remind me to wash my hands after reloading or shooting. I can’t see many of my docs as being very right wing but not one of them has ever spoken to me about shooting or guns being anything but a boon to my health since it gets me outdoors, off my butt and exercising. My orthopedic surgeon snarked that I should definitely not get into big bores but that’s the most anti-gun thing any of them had said and I’m pretty sure he was funnin’ me.

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