As physicians slowly but surely push their way back into the debate about gun violence, you can be sure that the NRA and its legion of willing sycophantic journalists will be right behind them attempting to explain why doctors should avoid any discussion with their patients about guns. The latest such effort comes from a right-wing blogger, Vic Khanna, who identifies himself as a health-care consultant and gun owner in an opinion-piece found on the Federalist blog.
The piece begins with the usual nonsense about how Obamacare is a threat to everything and that it threatens everyone’s individual liberties, most of all the liberty to own a gun. This is the standard crap that has been promoted about every liberal program or policy since the Republicans realized that protecting the 2nd Amendment was a good wedge issue for them to use at the polls. But Khanna then goes into detail criticizing the efforts by Adam Goldstein and other physicians to create standards for judging CCW fitness among patients, an issue for which Goldstein has published several important peer-reviewed articles over the last several years.
Of course Khanna neglects to mention the fact that Goldstein, who happens to be Professor of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, got into the CCW-competency business after receiving requests from sheriff’s departments in North Carolina who are required under law to consult a physician if a person’s mental or physical condition might make granting of CCW a risk. Now isn’t that amazing? North Carolina actually had the good sense to codify a requirement that recognized the unique competencies of physicians in diagnosing mental or physical impediments to carrying around a gun. What? Let those gun-grabbing, elitist doctors decide whether you or I can walk around with a gun?
But Khanna isn’t about to tell the truth and enlighten his readers to the fact that law enforcement is in kahoots with the medical establishment to keep North Carolina residents from carrying their guns. He’s also unwilling to honestly summarize the gist of Adam Goldstein’s publications on this issue, namely, the lack of clinical guidelines that physicians need to use when they diagnose all sorts of physical and mental conditions which might otherwise keep Americans from doing such non-essential activities as driving a vehicle or going to school. Perhaps in his role as a health care consultant Khanna tries to figure out ways to help parents avoid taking their children for the mandated health exam that most jurisdictions require before a kid can enroll in school.
Last year Adam Goldstein and other researchers sent out a questionnaire to 600 North Carolina physicians asking whether the recipients believed that they possessed sufficient medical knowledge to make a determination about the CCW fitness of individual patients. Of the 40% who returned the questionnaire, “a majority felt that they could not assess their patients’ physical capability to carry concealed weapons,” and nearly all the respondents felt that they needed special training before making medical assessments for CCW that might be required under North Carolina law.
Did Goldstein and his colleagues use these findings to promote the idea that issuance of CCW should be curbed or discontinued? No. Did they use these findings to challenge the rights of North Carolina resident to own guns? No. They did what the Hippocratic Oath requires them to do, namely, to raise concerns about their own ability to identify and reduce harm, in this case the harm that might occur if someone who was mentally or physically disabled could go around with a gun.
The NRA and its sycophant journalist crew like Vic Khanna have been playing fast and loose with the facts about physicians, patient care and gun ownership for the past twenty years. They’ve gotten away with it quite simply because most people visit doctors for medical conditions that don’t involve guns. But the tide is beginning to turn, and when the American College of Physicians urges their members to ‘educate’ patients about guns, physicians like Adam Goldstein won’t be turning to the likes of Vic Khanna in order to figure out how to respond.