The gap in physicians' belief and action is noted in the ACP's survey results, and the authors state that further study is needed to determine why physicians are reticent to talk to patients about something they obviously believe is a public health issue.
Cooke suspects that one reason physicians don't bring up guns in the exam room is because they know it is a volatile issue.
"Doctors, in general, attempt to avoid politicized conversations with their patients," says Cooke, who admits to having been part of the majority of physicians who do not ask patients about guns in the home.
"I ask patients, 'Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? In your home? With your partner?' " she says. "I have had patients bring up the fact that there is a gun in the house in response to those questions. This policy paper has sensitized me to this issue. Now I know to ask, 'Do you have a gun in your house?' "
Webster also sheds some light on why guns are not part of routine questions physicians use to find out more about their patients.