A bill making its way through the Florida legislature would make the state the first in the nation to prohibit doctors from asking patients if they own guns. The bill is intended to circumvent pediatricians who routinely ask parents if they have guns at home and, if so, if those guns are stored safely.
Pediatricians defend the practice, saying it is about preventing avoidable and accidental gun injuries. Gun rights advocates accuse the doctors of promoting a political anti-gun agenda. They take those claims one step further and call the question an invasion of a gun owner’s privacy.
NRA lobbyists helped write the bill that broadly bans health professionals from asking about guns. Republican Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the measure.
The bill avoids a blanked gag on doctors by allowing them to ask questions about guns if it the doctor feels it is directly relevant to the patient’s care or safety. This way doctors can still counsel suicidal teens–an exception that seems logical and clear. But what is not so clear is when that line of questioning can begin.
North Carolina and Alabama are considering similar measures.
This bill seems largely to be a solution in search of a problem. Gun owners are not damaged in any way by a doctor asking if their firearms are stored safely, and for new parents, these kinds of checks do nothing but reinforce that gun accidents are very real and very deadly. These kinds of questions are legitimate public health inquiries and serve a far greater good than protecting an individual’s pride (or perhaps shame) for arming his or herself.
photo courtesy of gideon tsang via Flickr