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The Pediatricians Vs. the NRA

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, children, corruption, culture, death, dishonesty, education, environment, ethics, family, government, health, law, media, police, politics, religion, rights, safety, society, violence )

- 1935 days ago -
How the gun lobby is trying to gag doctors from talking about kids and guns.

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Kit B (276)
Monday February 4, 2013, 11:37 am
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images --- Parents of Sandy Hook Elementary massacre victims hold hands during a press conference on the one-month anniversary of the elementary school massacre.

The Pediatricians Verse The NRA

What does the body of a 6-year-old girl look like after a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle’s high-velocity bullets rip through her? The average 6-year-old girl weighs about 44 pounds and stands around 3 feet 9 inches tall. The size of her organs and the diameters of her arteries and veins, bowel, and bones are much smaller than an adult’s. But a 6-year-old girl is not a miniature adult; her organs are more vulnerable and less protected by bones. So when a high-velocity projectile like a .223-caliber bullet, traveling at approximately 2,000 miles per hour, from an assault weapon like a Bushmaster AR-15, enters her body, all hell breaks loose. If that bullet pierces her chest wall into her heart, it will cause her heart to explode, and if it passes within 3 inches of her aorta, the shockwaves will tear it open. If it slices into her arm, it will shatter her humerus into so many fragments that it will no longer be recognizable as a bone. If it spirals into her brain, the cavity and damage the bullet causes will be so extensive that her head will break apart.

Guns kill kids. In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,694 children and teens in the United States died because of a firearm. Another 15,578 children and teens were injured. Every 30 minutes, a child is killed or injured by a gun. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the largest organization of pediatricians, recommends that conversations about guns and gun safety start during a prenatal visit and be repeated every year as part of anticipatory guidance. Those conversations start with a question: “Do you own a gun?”

One Tuesday in the summer of 2010, at Children’s Health of Ocala, Fla., a pediatrician named Chris Okonkwo asked the mother of a 7-year-old patient, “Do you have guns in the home?”

Her response was unexpected: “None of your business!”

Okonkwo tried to explain why he was asking the question. He told the mother he routinely asked questions about safety regarding firearms, swimming pools, and bike helmets, to name just a few. He told her that if there was a gun in her home, it should be locked and any ammunition also locked and kept separately.

Instead she continued to yell at him, “Didn’t you hear what I said? None of your damn business!”

Okonkwo finished the rest of the physical exam, administered immunizations, and then informed the mother she had 30 days to find another doctor. He felt they were unable to establish a “relationship of trust,” given her refusal to answer questions about basic safety.

What happened in that pediatric office led an NRA lobbyist to sponsor legislation in the Florida State House. “Privacy of Firearm Owners” was signed by Gov. Rick Scott and passed into law on June 2, 2011. This law prohibits doctors from “making written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient.” It also prohibits doctors from “unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination.” But this law does not define what “unnecessarily harassing” means. The question Okonkwo asked could be construed as “unnecessarily harassing” if that mother filed a complaint with the Florida Board of Medicine. And Okonkwo could be censured and his license to practice medicine revoked, as well as fined up to $10,000. But this was a watered-down version of the law. The original bill called for more Draconian measures: a third-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $5 million and a maximum of five years in prison. All for simply asking the question, “Do you have guns in the home?”

Days after the law passed, three physicians, Bernd Wollschlaeger, Judy Schaechter, and Tommy Schechtman, along with the Florida chapter of the AAP and other medical societies, filed a suit to block enforcement of the law. They sued Rick Scott, in his official capacity as governor of Florida, on grounds that the law violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech for physicians and also violated the First Amendment right of patients to hear that speech.

Wollschlaeger is a family practitioner who makes house calls. Before he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, he served in the Israeli army and is intimately familiar with firearms. He owns guns and is a concealed-weapons permit holder. He used his personal knowledge of guns to relate to his patients who are gun owners to counsel them on gun safety. But the Florida Physician Gag Law, as the plaintiffs refer to it in their suit, changed his practice. He stopped talking about guns. Wollschlaeger used to be a member of the NRA. Now he feels the NRA has “metastasized into a lobby for the gun industry.” And the law, which was “all NRA proposed, all NRA sponsored, all NRA supported,” was a form of intimidation. Wollschlaeger doesn’t like to be intimidated. He volunteered to be a named plaintiff in the suit because “our voices and our words matter. We have to stand up for what is right.”

Schaechter is an expert on childhood injury and violence. She has practiced Adolescent Medicine for 16 years and is much too familiar with gun violence and teens. Most teens use guns in homicide and suicide, the second and third leading causes of death in older teenagers. Schaechter felt that the lawsuit was a way “to serve the nation” because it was an “opportunity to stand up for constitutional freedom.”

Schechtman echoes his fellow plaintiffs in his desire to do “the right thing” in bringing this suit. He is a pediatrician who has been involved in child advocacy throughout his career. He recalled an incident in his exam room when the mother of a patient denied the presence of guns in her home. “Yes, there is,” her teenage son interrupted. Unbeknownst to her, the father was keeping a loaded gun in the house. Schechtman counseled the mother on the safe storage of guns. He may have averted an episode of needless gun violence in his patient’s home. After the law passed, he did not stop asking the question, “Do you have guns in the home?” To him, “missing a child at risk for gun violence” outweighs “the risk of being censured.”

On Sept. 14, 2011, Justice Marcia Cooke granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the physicians and blocked the state of Florida from enforcing the gag law, and on June 29, 2012, she issued a permanent injunction. In her orders, she wrote, “The State has attempted to inveigle this Court to cast this matter as a Second Amendment case. Despite the State’s insistence that the right to ‘keep arms’ is the primary constitutional right at issue in this litigation, a plain reading of the statute reveals that this law in no way affects such rights. … What is curious about this law—and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech—is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient. …” The state is appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where oral arguments await. Gov. Rick Scott in a press release said, “I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional, and I will continue to defend it.”

The NRA has proposed physician gag laws like the one that passed in Florida in several other states. In 2011, it sponsored legislation in Alabama, North Carolina, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. In 2012, the NRA was responsible for bringing to the Oklahoma senate floor a bill that required doctors to first obtain “informed consent” to ask about guns in the home before they could even ask questions about guns in the home. In Tennessee a house bill prohibited doctors from making a written or verbal inquiry about gun ownership. And in West Virginia, a house bill sought to amend the West Virginia Medical Practice Act so that doctors asking about guns would be the equivalent of “professional incompetence” and “gross negligence” and punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and the revocation of the doctor’s license to practice.

Gun violence is a public health issue. And the NRA has been disturbingly influential in public health policy. Since the 1990s, it has suppressed research in gun violence by targeting the sources of funding. In 1996, pro-gun members of Congress tried to eliminate the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. They failed in getting rid of the center, but the House of Representatives cut $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—the exact amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. And they added restrictive language on any appropriation to the CDC: “none of the funds available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” In 2011, Congress extended the restriction to include all Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s leading medical research agency.

Astoundingly, the NRA was also responsible for a provision in the Affordable Care Act. Into this landmark health care law, NRA-backed legislators quietly inserted “Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights.” This section bans doctors, health care programs, and insurers from “collection of any information relating to the presence or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property of an individual.” This provision stifles research in gun violence, and it is so vaguely worded it could be interpreted to prohibit doctors from asking patients about guns. This provision was so alarming to the AAP and other child-advocacy groups that they wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services “vehemently” rejecting this provision in the ACA and urging the department to “craft policy” to “limit the harmful impact of this section of the Act.”

Since the Newtown, Conn., massacre, it appears as though the NRA is weaker than it has been in decades, and gun control is finally being debated seriously. President Obama has issued 23 executive actions on gun control. But the NRA, through its friends in Congress, has many ways to block meaningful action.

Among Obama’s executive actions, No. 16 states, “Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.” This clarification confirms that doctors should continue to practice preventive medicine. But it does not specifically lift the moratorium on data collection of gun ownership in the ACA, which directly affects research on gun violence.

Another executive action, No. 14 directs the CDC to “research the causes and prevention of gun violence,” which is intended to overturn the restrictive language on research-funding agencies. However, Congress needs to provide funding for gun violence research or it will not be supported. If the NRA continues to be influential with members of Congress, it will continue to affect public health policy.

Despite a permanent injunction blocking enforcement of the physician gag law, doctors in Florida remain wary. Okonkwo, the pediatrician involved in the circumstance leading to the gag law, says the permanent injunction may not be enough. He knows there is an appeal in progress. He counsels patients and their families about the safe storage of guns. But he does not ask the question: “Do you have guns in the home?”

By Helena Rho | |


Kit B (276)
Monday February 4, 2013, 11:42 am

I find this to be outrageous, and I hope others do as well. I have to wonder about the fantasy world many or our citizens are living in when the gun takes priority over the health and safety of their children. Strange thing is that if a doctor asked if you had a pet snake or an STD, or even if you might be having a marital affair, you might be surprised at the question, chances are you would answer.

JL A (281)
Monday February 4, 2013, 1:01 pm
CA doctors ask about this, domestic violence, smoking and more since they have an obligation to help protect our health.

Barbara F (47)
Monday February 4, 2013, 1:51 pm
Of course this is ridiculous! It just shows how POWERFUL the NRA is, not only with politicians, but with the Courts as well!

Gene Jacobson (290)
Monday February 4, 2013, 1:53 pm
"Okonkwo finished the rest of the physical exam, administered immunizations, and then informed the mother she had 30 days to find another doctor. He felt they were unable to establish a “relationship of trust,” given her refusal to answer questions about basic safety."

I applaud a doctor with a moral sense. The law is not about the second amendment at all, what it does is infringe on a doctor's oath to care for his or her patients as well as the right to free speech. These gun nuts will absolutely stop at nothing. I saw the most interesting statistic yesterday in Doonesbury, who has been brilliant for decades, but this was exceptional. Just as in illustration of how damn silly this country is when it comes to guns.

Yesterday's dialog says: "What are we like as a people? Well, let's look at two sets of facts. Nine years ago, we were attacked. 3000 people died. In response, we started two long, bloody wars and built a vast Homeland Security apparatus - all at a cost of trillions! Now consider this, during those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home. Our response? We weakened our gun laws."

Is that NOT insane, how does anyone NOT see the insanity of that, including Wayne LaPierre?

Nancy M (197)
Monday February 4, 2013, 1:56 pm

Yes, it is outrageous.

I saw a long list at the NRA website of organizations who have supported in some way anything anti-gun. It actually includes many churches. Now called the enemies list. Churches- incluidng Mennonites!

Rose Becke (141)
Monday February 4, 2013, 2:13 pm

pam w (139)
Monday February 4, 2013, 2:45 pm
" This law prohibits doctors from “making written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient.” It also prohibits doctors from “unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination.”

++++++++++++++ WHATTTTT? So....the doctor can ask about possible sexual abuse but not about guns in a home?


Kathy Chadwell (354)
Monday February 4, 2013, 3:54 pm
Here is the entire list of NRA enemies.

And this is just the A's
Ambulatory Pediatric Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Civil Liberties Union
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing
American Medical Women`s Association
American Medical Student Association
American Medical Association
American Association for the Surgery of Trauma
American Trauma Society
American Federation of Teachers
American Association of School Administrators
American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities
American Medical Association
American Bar Association
American Counseling Association
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for World Health
American Ethical Union
American Nurses Association
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences
American Firearms Association
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Jewish Committee
American Trauma Society
American Psychological Association
American Jewish Congress
American Public Health Association
Americans for Democratic Action
Anti-Defamation League

Angelika R (143)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:25 pm
What an INCREDIBLE story! And what an OUTRAGE ! Those responsible doctors need to be AWARDED . Bravo for suing Perry!
Glad Obama at least put those executive actions in there but what good does it if congress will block again.
I bet hardly anyone realised just HOW MUCH the NRA has been influencing legislation over the years..

Angelika R (143)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:27 pm
Oh, I should also mention how painful this read was...

Kit B (276)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:27 pm

I think people have lost their ever lovin' minds. Guns are a hobby, not a critical need like medicine. If that is just the A's , I hate to imagine what the full list is like.


Tamara Hayes (185)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:44 pm
I find this to be absolutely asinine. They always ask in the ER if you feel safe at home, is anyone harming you, are there any reasons why you would not want to return home. I have never felt anything but protected by these questions and any parent who is offended by a physician asking questions regarding gun safety or anything close to that needs some serious parenting skills classes.
Thanks Kit.

Lin Penrose (92)
Monday February 4, 2013, 5:53 pm
Noted, thanks Kit. Tried to send a Star to Gene Jacobson - fresh out for a few days. The NRA can add a new (actually old) enemy to it's list - Me. The macho-ism fear of loss (control over others & male organ - mental ego), and fears incited to others for various reasons, seems to have a great deal of financial & political control. Perhaps some religious incentives (control again) also.

To use children, their parents, their doctors, as reasons to continue a so-called "freedom", in the degrees of violence and potential killing of others the NRA demands, is beyond frightening. This country now has a large population of potential and current serial murders who are protected by a select Version of our out-dated, in many respects -Constitution. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others at that time had good reasons for citizens to arm themselves against the existing unstable government and country.. At this time, our several Governments (Federal, State and Cities) has (thanks to tax payers) the arms to send this entire world to the next dimension.

Private guns and weapons to defend themselves and family, against another individual or group that means them harm, I will not protest. I will not protest guns for non-life target shooting. I will not protest against guns or other weapons for killing another edible animal for supporting that persons immediate families food Survival.

Guess I've made my personal opinion known about the NRA and affiliates, they are cowards on several levels and should be ashamed of themselves. Sure they will. Cowards to confront their own minds of why they feel good about being able to kill. Not going to happen, unfortunately.


Angelika R (143)
Monday February 4, 2013, 6:57 pm
Kit-the full list is on my thread >
but does not really look that "full"

. (0)
Monday February 4, 2013, 7:56 pm
i just don't get the love affair so many Americans have with their guns. I think of it as the 'John Wayne Syndrome'....the fake, gutless hero who believes his own BS.

The doctors should consider moving out of the states which pass stupid laws and go practice somewhere else. Canada is short on doctors. We would love to have them. No worries up here as few people have guns.

Past Member (0)
Monday February 4, 2013, 8:54 pm
Bloody hell Thanks Kit

Susanne R (235)
Monday February 4, 2013, 11:24 pm
Anyone who reads the description of what a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle’s high-velocity bullets do to the body of a child and isn't affected by it is hopeless! Insurance companies are able to deny insurance to smokers or charge them higher rates because they're more likely to develop life-threatening illnesses --so why can't the medical and insurance industries be aware of which patients are at a higher risk of serious injury due to the presence of firearms in their homes? The NRA and their lobby is much too powerful and we, as the vast majority of the U.S. population, must inundate our representatives with demands for stricter gun control. Why are we allowing the NRA to put the rest of us at risk --especially our children?

Incidentally, Rick Scott has proven time and again that he is nothing more than an ass-kissing errand boy for the tea party. I hope the voters of Florida remove him from office when he seeks re-election.

Scott haakon (4)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 10:31 am
So? This whole argument is nothing compared to a 30-06 silver tip! We do not need gun control despite what the anti-gun people say. There are madpeople who place explosives that do a lot more death and injuries. We need to get a grip on the fact that the vast majority of us will never be shot. 85% will not have an auto accident. The NRA is correct in that too many people have no gun training nor are taught about the responsibility.

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 10:50 am
If what you say is true,Scott, then the NRA should be supporting the pediatrician's as they question families in order to ensure that the guns they may have are kept safely and they receive the necessary safety training.

So why is the NRA opposed to this question?

Kit B (276)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 11:18 am

Because Scott is nothing more than a wee little troll. What a Thirty aught six silver tip is designed for is hunting, though we have few real hunters in this country. And....what the hell that has to do with doctors speaking to families about correct ways to protect children from gun violence is beyond any reasonable thinking person.

Bruno Moreira (61)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 11:55 am

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 4:27 pm
LOLOL I also recently looked up trigger words that trigger big brother's giant spy computers.
They will be watching you Scott haakon :)

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 6:27 pm
The NRA is like a cancer in our society, that subverts the process of healthy dialogue, like a cancer is a parasite to the body in which it arose and lives, sucking the resources of the body for its own selfish, killing growth.

Winn Adams (179)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 7:39 pm
The NRA is a cancer on America.

Susan F. (0)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 11:01 pm
There are millions of law-abiding gun owners who have never broken a law in their lives.
These gun ban laws will not protect kids. Crazy people and outlaws do not follow gun laws. They buy
guns illegally and break laws regularly.
The government is using the tragedy of NewTown to pass new gun laws. Nothing would make this administration happier than having the masses unable to defend themselves.
I say, if you want to protect kids, allow teachers to carry concealed weapons.

Susan F. (0)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 11:05 pm
Are ALL of you liberals? I will have to cancel my membership.
It is our Constitutional right to own a gun.
This administration is a cancer on America.
We are being stripped of our rights daily and you all buy into their lies.
These bills will stop nothing. The assault rifles are already out there and the bad guys already own them illegally.

Julie W (32)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 1:34 am
Thank the Lord I don't live in the US! Seems to be getting crazier by the day.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 3:34 pm
Yes glad i dont live there either Sounds like all the NRA lobby need to play Russian roulette If all this killing there and all the guns is because of a constitutional right then sounds like the law should be changed and keep up with the times Its not the 1700s now its 2013

Jeremy S (3)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 5:27 pm
The NRA is far too powerful--it needs to be demolished, for the good of this country! Otherwise there will be anther Newtown, another Columbine, another Fort Hood, and so on. A physician should have every right to ascertain if there are any dangers to a child (or an adult, for that matter) in a house, through an interview. After all, doctors are responsible for their patients' health, and no one can be healthy once they've been riddled with bullets.

Cristina A (4)
Sunday May 26, 2013, 6:30 pm
Pediatricians should focus on their jobs, which is making sure kids are healthy, and performing eye exams.

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