Are Gun Policies Relevant for Your Dental Practice?

Patients could be carrying a gun to appointments, which means gun policies may be needed at your practice.

A patient arrived for an EKG carrying a gun in his holster. The staff kindly asked if he would put the gun in his car and secure it for safe keeping while visiting their office. The patient did so without incident, admitting he forget he still had the gun on when he got out of the car. 

Other incidents have not gone so smoothly, including one dental patient who accidentally shot himself when he thought he was grabbing his phone.

These incidents and their differing outcomes display that not only could patients be carrying a gun to appointments, but that gun policies may be needed at your practice.

Gun policies and procedures

Addressing the fact that patients could be carrying guns prior to a situation arising can help your staff comfortably and confidently handle potential issues.

If you do not want guns on your premise (either concealed or open carry) and your office is not designated as a no carry zone (you can check local laws to see where guns can/cannot be carried) you should post signs at all entrances advising that it is a gun free zone. 

In some states, the statutory language is necessary, in others, the “gun buster” decal will suffice. Be sure to check with your attorney and local law enforcement to see what you need to do to be compliant. 

Additionally, don’t forget to address whether gun free zones will include your parking lot or other common areas.

Guns, patients and staff members

Should you take the position of a gun-free office, it is important to discuss how to handle non-compliant patients with your staff.

It is always a good idea to start discussions with a non-compliant patient by confirming that you take patient and staff safety seriously and are uncomfortable with guns on your premise. From that point, if a patient continues to refuse to remove their gun, you may need to consider contacting law enforcement.

On the other hand, if you are okay with patients arriving armed for appointments, you need to determine whether you are going to allow them to keep the gun on during the exam and treatment, or if you will ask them to store it in a secure location. 

Remember, the circumstances of having easy access to a weapon could affect the treatment being rendered. Therefore, if guns are allowed on your premise, all parties to the exam and treatment (provider and staff) should be comfortable with the presence of a weapon and with taking necessary precautions.

In any case, when it comes to gun safety, you should:

  • Assume that every gun is loaded
  • Assume the safety mechanism is not engaged
  • Allow only the gun owner to handle the weapon 

If you are looking for tips on gun safety at your practice, take a look at Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership’s blog – Check state law when determining how to handle guns at your practice.

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