"It's about our right as physicians to ask questions. We often ask questions that can be intimate and very personal," Wollschlaeger told HealthLeaders Media. "As a patient, you have a right to refuse or not (when asked the question about guns)." Families with children are particularly impacted, he says. "If there are children in the household, we ask the question if you have a gun. Children disproportionately suffer accidental injuries from guns that are stored in the home, and the results can be tragic."
Wollschlagger, who also works in addiction medicine, says he counsels patients who have "psychiatric background issues" about the dangers of guns in the house.
Wollschlagger says his patients have reacted positively to his comments that may include questions about guns in their houses. "I never had a patient who reacted aggressively or was opposed to the fact I asked this question," he adds. "It doesn't trigger a negative reaction, as claimed by many gun advocates, who say that physicians should stay out of it." Some patients who may not have safeguarded weapons in their homes have told him "it's good you told me about it," Wollschlagger says.
The physicians' entanglement with Florida over the gun issue began last year after the Florida legislature passed The Privacy of Firearms Owners Act, (signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott), which would have restricted physicians, nurses, and medical staff from asking a patient and patients' parents about firearms. Physicians accused of violating the law would have been sent before the Florida Board of Medicine for disciplinary action.