About the Initiative and the Commitment

What You Can Do (WYCD) is a prevention initiative mobilizing a network of health care providers looking for ways to reduce firearm injury and death among populations at high risk. Though WYCD closely followed the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas on 1 October 2017, its focus is prevention of all causes of firearm injury and death, and especially interpersonal violence with firearms and firearm suicide.

WYCD has three main objectives:

  1. To support health care providers in applying their unique potential for reducing firearm violence among their patients.
  2. To provide helpful information for identifying patient risk factors for firearm violence and materials for providers regarding firearms counseling.
  3. To respond to the needs of health care providers as they fulfill their commitments to ask their patients about firearms.

With its firearm counseling commitment, WYCD has reached across the country, across professional backgrounds, and across medical specialties. Those who have committed to this point live in 48 states, and represent more than 20 specialties. Most of those who have committed—more than 75%—practice internal medicine, but many emergency medicine providers have also joined the movement. Click here to see more about who has made the commitment to ask their patients about firearms.

This is a learning exercise. While you, as a provider, are learning ways you can reduce firearm violence, the WYCD team is learning how best to support you in meeting your commitment. So far, we’ve learned that

  • More than half of providers who have made the commitment feel they need to study up on firearms in order to meet their firearm counseling goals.
  • The lethality of firearms in suicide attempts is of particular concern for many providers interacting with patients experiencing suicidal ideation.
  • Providers who are firearm owners and sportsmen have joined in making the commitment, citing the importance of firearm safety, injury prevention, and a public health approach to reducing firearm injury and death.

Here are some words from providers who have made the commitment.

“This is a state where gun ownership is a way of life," says a geriatric medicine specialist from South Carolina. "Many people enjoy hunting and many living in rural areas view firearms as a method of personal protection. I am not a gun owner and I feel I need to be better informed about what exactly constitutes good gun safety and I need to know how to discuss it with patients and families.”

“I asked the gun question when I first started practice 23 years ago, however, I got lazy about it and got tired of the push back from a small percentage of patients," explains one Massachusetts internist. "Now, though, with all the recent gun violence (even though the much more common small-scale violence has been going on right along), and your pledge efforts, I've decided to start asking again.”

A psychiatrist in California is "swayed by the evidence that access to firearms makes a big difference between a suicide attempt and a completed suicide." She explains, "it is so hard to stop patients from getting depressed, prevent them from being suicidal, and even keep them from making attempts. But, by talking about firearm access, I can help them not succeed at those attempts.”

Many who have made the commitment are working within their practices to spread the word on the importance of provider counseling for prevention of firearm injury and death. Here are some of the ways they’re promoting provider counseling on firearms:

  • By sharing the WYCD commentary with colleagues and on social media to encourage others to make the commitment
  • By giving presentations on firearms as a public health problem and provider counseling at grand rounds, journal club meetings, and medical association meetings
  • By submitting letters to the editors of medical journals and news outlets
  • By encouraging their hospital systems to take public stands on firearm violence as a public health problem