Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do You Have Any Guns In The Home?

If this Florida legislator has his way, asking that question could cost up to $5 million and/or 5 years in prison.  I presume this is at least in part a result of the recent calls for increased gun control in light of the shootings in Arizona just over a week ago.

The legislator who introduced the bill has built his argument upon his worries that physicians who ask about guns in the home will report this to the insurance company, who could report them to the government, who then could come after your guns.  This argument is flawed: most docs who ask about guns do *not* report that to the insurance, and therefore the chain of feared consequences is never even begun.

So: why would physicians ask about guns in the home?  A few quick examples:
  • If there are children at home, a physician could ask about guns in order to discuss safety, accident avoidance and proper gun storage.  Evidence is clear that guns are much more likely to kill a family member than an intruder, so asking about gun safety and storage is a necessary part of well-child care.
  • If someone is suicidal or homicidal, the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of completing a suicide attempt or severely harming (or killing) another person.  If a gun is available, then a mentally ill person has much more probability of hurting themselves or others, and a physician would be ethically and legally bound to approach that person's care more aggressively in order to avoid that harm.
  • If one person in household is being abused by another, the presence of a gun would increase the potential lethality of the situation.  A physician may need to know this information in order to provide the necessary guidance to the victim of abuse in order to see to their safety and protection.
Physicians have legitimate and necessary reasons for asking about the presence of guns in the home.  This law, as proposed, would severely undercut doctors' ability to care for their patients and could penalize what most would see as proper medical care, and would place more government controls on what can be discussed in the privacy of the doctor/patient interaction.

Let's hope this bill ends up in the trash pile, where it belongs.

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