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FL Primary Care Docs Battle 'Gun Gag' Law

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 13, 2011

Primary care physicians' associations in Florida have filed a federal lawsuit to strike down a new "physician gun gag" law that they say hinders them from talking about firearms hazards with patients.

"This is not about guns. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment right to bear arms but it infringes upon the First Amendment right to discuss firearms safety," Lisa A. Cosgrove, MD, president of the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told HealthLeaders Media.

"The bottom line is it is interfering with our right to talk to our patients. Inside of my exam room, that is private territory. It is already protected under HIPAA laws. There should be nothing that interferes with that and this does."

The legislation, HB 155 – was signed into law this month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Lane Wright, Scott's press secretary, defended the bill. "I think that last part is what some people miss—'if the information is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others,'" Wright said in an email to HealthLeaders Media. "The law ensures respect for a patient's right to own or possess a firearm and protects them from potential discrimination and harassment in cases where it is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of anyone else in the home."

Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association representative in Florida, said she felt compelled to bring the bill to the Florida Legislature after hearing complaints for several years that gun owners were being harassed by their physicians about their firearms.

"So, we sought sponsors for legislation that would prevent doctors from invading the privacy rights of their patients and bringing their gun ban politics into examining rooms," Hammer said. "People take their children to pediatricians for medical care, not to be lectured to get rid of their guns, not to be asked if they own guns, how many, where they are stored. Those are questions that no doctor has a right to ask unless he or she fears the patient may be a danger to him or herself or others, or unless they feel someone in the home may be a danger to the patient or others."

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1 comments on "FL Primary Care Docs Battle 'Gun Gag' Law"


Tom (7/30/2011 at 1:18 PM)
I would think that office visits are short enough without having to expend time discussing patients personal non-medical situations in an attempt to push forth a Medical Association agenda. Even the general questions about pool covers or seat belts is irrelevant to the patient's treatment and we have the National Safety Council to address those issues - www.nsc.org . The physician is there to administer "Medical Treatment" and offer advice directly related to the condition of the patient. Physicians should not have the right nor the inclination to "Pry" into the private lives of patients or their families - it is a blatant disregard for patient privacy. If I have a intestinal problem why should the physician ask me if I own a gun? Hammer is correct in pointing out the failure of physicians to properly treat patients in cases that result in the deaths of over 100,000 yearly. Perhaps if physicians spent more time focusing on the patient's illness instead of consentrating on their "gun ban agenda" they would reduce the number of patient deaths due to "medical errors" significantly. The good intention of the medical profession is clearly overshadowed by it's failure to enact real change. They are not going to reduce or eliminate gun ownership by intruding their agenda on a per patient basis. It is clearly a bandaid approach to a hemmoraging problem. Anti-gun activists have been at it for years and nothing has changed. The only time a discussion about guns should take place between the physician and patient is when the patients initiate a concern about themselves or a family member in regard to depression or any number of mental disorders which may contribute to a irrational decision to use a gun as a solution. While there may be some patients that view the physician's inquiry as caring, Im sure there are many others who feel intruded upon and violated.