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Journal Article


Vars FE. Ann. Intern Med. 2021; 174(7): 1038-1039.


(Copyright © 2021, American College of Physicians)






TO THE EDITOR: Betz and colleagues' (1) brief research report notes that approximately one fifth of older firearm owners in a nationally representative survey had a plan for securing or transferring firearms if they became unable to handle them safely. Only 5.6% of those plans were written. As the authors correctly observe, the survey "highlights opportunities for enhanced future planning related to firearms." However, what form can and should such advance planning take? Here, I offer 3 proposals.

The first proposal is to encourage more and better use of an existing legal instrument: the gun trust. The survey results suggest an untapped demand for this option; 16.1% of respondents had a plan, but it was not in writing. A gun trust is a commonly used vehicle to control disposition of firearms and, with very minor modification, could turn these unwritten plans into legally binding arrangements (2). Health care providers could suggest this option to patients with such conditions as early stage dementia.

The second proposal--enacting a statute to authorize a streamlined advance directive for firearms--requires a legal change (3). This could make the benefits of a gun trust more readily accessible. A section on firearms could even be added to existing advance directive forms. Again, the survey results suggest the potential of such a change, showing that 64.1% of respondents had written advance directives for health care.

The final and most important proposal is to use innovative laws in 3 states to close the following major loophole in advance firearm planning: Even if firearms are secured or transferred away from an unsafe owner, little stops that person from simply buying a new gun...

Language: en


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