Oops!Docs Can Talk To Patients About Guns But Patients Can Keep Their Guns.

Six years ago the State of Florida decided that doctors could not talk to their patients about guns. The state of Florida has become the legislative sandbox for every attempt by Gun-nut Nation to rid the country of any and all protections against the violence caused by guns. Stand Your Ground, Concealed Carry – both of these harebrained schemes came out of the Gunshine State. But the law known as FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act) was the craziest of them all.

doc-glocks             What made the law so crazy wasn’t the fact that it criminalized doctors who talked to their patients about guns; it was that in a state of 18 million people, the law was based on six unsubstantiated anecdotes which, as the 11th Circuit Court noted, didn’t even address the same concerns.  Which was one, but not the only reason why the 11th Circuit Court ruled 10 – 1 that the law was unconstitutional and couldn’t stand.

Throwing doctors out of the discussion about gun violence has been a major and ongoing NRA project since the medical profession first started warning about the risks of guns. Which is exactly how the Hippocratic Oath defines the role of physicians, namely, to reduce risk.  But I can’t blame the gun industry and its noisemakers like the NRA from taking an anti-doctor stand; after all, if you manufactured a consumer product which was considered by physicians to be too risky to own, you’d be up in arms (no pun intended) against those physicians too.

But what the Court said in this regard effectively stood the NRA’s argument on its head, because 10 out of 11 justices found that “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights.”   And this is what the argument is all about, namely, whether any attempt to regulate gun violence or even talk about gun violence is somehow always construed as an ‘attack’ on 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’

Right now a bill is being debated in the State of Washington Legislature which would make a failure to secure guns in the home a reckless endangerment felony if an individual who, under law, cannot have possession of a firearm gets his hands on the gun and discharges it or uses it in a criminal or threatening way.  The NRA is opposed to this bill, calling it “an intrusive government legislation [which] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.”

The bill does no such thing. Nor does a doctor talking to a patient about guns threaten the patient’s ownership of that gun. But if we now have a President who stands up in front of the entire nation and after he’s corrected about the size of his electoral victory repeats the same falsehood again, should we be surprised when the representatives of Gun-nut Nation continue to promote their own false claims again and again?

No doubt that when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Gun-nut Nation will come up with their own, self-fulfilling narrative about the ‘Docs versus Glocks’ case.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing they say is that the 11th Circuit is tainted because 9 of the 10 judges who supported the majority decision were appointed by gun-grabber numero uno, Barack Hussein.  But that’s nothing more than another riff on Trump-o’s attack on the ‘politicized’ judiciary, which seems to be the latest in a dwindling list of options available to the Chief Executive before he’s forced to resign.

The decision by the 11th Circuit not only puts an end to a six-year battle that erupted when the FOPA law was first announced.  It also puts a big dent in the thirty-year campaign waged by the NRA and others to keep evidence-based information about gun risk and gun violence on the margins of the public domain. This just isn’t a victory for doctors and patients, it’s a victory for the value of reasoned, public debate.




8 thoughts on “Oops!Docs Can Talk To Patients About Guns But Patients Can Keep Their Guns.

  1. The Washington law proffered by the left is as overreaching as the Florida law that was proffered by the right. A gross misdemeanor would result if a prohibited person who obtained the gun was simply shooting at tin cans in a safe place (“causes the firearm to discharge”, without elaboration). I can see a high level misdemeanor if the prohibited person actually committed a violent crime, but….

    As far as doctors, some pretty inflammatory stuff has come out of folks like Doctors of America. If one wants to look at “the worst public health crisis” one would have to acknowledge that in most parts of America, people, and especially kids, are more likely to be killed by cars than by guns yet we keep building transportation systems that violate every tenet of Vision Zero, which is why our traffic fatals as well as gun fatals are far higher than most first world countries’.

    GVP advocates often are as off the charts as the NRA. Someone needs to move the discussion back to the center.

  2. Every aspect of the Florida law is a farce. It is lame political theater. If MDs really wanted to improve the safety of families in their care, they would ask them their address and how many felons do they know. And if they answered in a certain way, tell them to move. That might actually move the needle.
    It was right at a year ago that M. Bloomberg gave a talk about GV at the Aspen Institute. What he said was very realistic. He also did not want his comments distributed. You guys no doubt know what he said. (GV = 95% minorities age 15-25). That might be an overstatement, but Mayor Bloomberg said it, not me. And he is the one pushing more gun control, not me. It gets really interesting when ones starts to try to reconcile what M. Bloomberg knows versus what he says he wants to do to law-abiding gun owners.
    Is it the NRA that is trying to squelch evidence based information regarding the risks of gun violence, or is it the Political Correctness of guys like The Mayor who know the truth but tell everyone to turn the cameras off when he speaks?

    • Here is the story about the Aspen Institute talk. I was not aware of that.


      As far as that Florida law being overturned by the 11th Circuit? Excellent. I no more want legislators to muzzle doctors regarding gun safety than I want them required by law to show pregnant women grisly videos of late term abortions. Both acts of legislatures are political theatre.

      Interesting thing is that one study stated that while 74% of U.S. pediatricians were comfortable discussing firearm safety, fewer than half of that number (32.7) thought they had sufficient training to do so. (Inj Prev. 2007 Apr;13(2):99-104.) That seems to be the crux of the problem. I have no problems with doctors discussing firearms safety from a public health and injury prevention point of view but would no more want a doctor unfamiliar with firearms safety advising me about guns than I would want a doctor unfamiliar with cardiology advising me about heart disease. Training, training, training.

      If a doctor harasses a patient over a question about guns (or abortions), there should be a one on one with a medical ethics board. Not a knee jerk law.

  3. “Only 32% of pediatricians felt they had sufficient training to discuss guns”. LOL.
    If you asked surgeons that question, about 110% would say they are qualified.

    I cannot access the numbers, but I can tell you from personal knowledge and experience that a very high percentage of (non-pediatrician) MDs in a place like Texas have a CHL. The reasons are probably not obvious to folks outside of that culture and I can hear the lamentations already about “healing vs hurting, etc.”
    So, here I go: MDs already have most of the background check and fingerprints, etc. on file. The State Medical Board already knows if you have issues. It is the same with Nurses and other State licensed healthcare providers. For those folks, it is quick and automatic. In parts of Houston, having a CHL is almost the equivalent of being in healthcare. (110,000 people work at the Texas Medical Center.) It is more about having a gold-plated form of ID than shooting bad guys.
    Also, it is still a felony in Texas to be caught carrying a weapon off your own property without one.
    So, just get the dam license.

  4. My daughter is a surgeon. She is a skinny little blond, but I raised her right.
    She was in Montana recently and went with some friends on an Elk hunt. When it came time to field-dress the animal, they kind of joked and said to her, “Do you want to do this?” She said, “Sure, give me the knife.”
    Then she proceeded to clean out the abdominal cavity with precise cuts in record time while giving anatomy lessons to the kids who were there.
    I am talking about raw self confidence.

  5. Pingback: Oops!Docs Can Talk To Patients About Guns But Patients Can Keep Their Guns. | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

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