• Wed, Jul 30 - 10:00 am ET

It’s Absurd That Florida Won’t Allow Doctors To Ask Patients If They Own A Gun

florida-doctors“That’s none of your business!”

I wrote an article a while back about how when my child begins to have playdates, I will be asking parents if they have guns in their homes. The above statement was the resounding response to my declaration. I live in Florida – people love their guns here. I’m not exactly sure what percentage of the population owns them, because gun owners are not required to register their weapons in this state. Our country loves guns, and it loves respecting the “privacy” of gun owners. So much so, that the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit just upheld a 2011 Florida law that makes it illegal for doctors to ask patients if they own a gun.  Apparently, asking someone if they own a gun is more invasive than asking them if they have herpes, suicidal tendencies, or genetic diseases.

Aaron E. Carrol, author and health services researcher, wrote about the appeal in the New York Times this week. He questions the logic behind the court’s decision.  Questioning this appeal makes perfect sense, but I doubt gun owners, relentlessly protecting their “privacy” will hear him.

Almost 20,000 people committed suicide in the United States with firearms in 2011. More than 11,000 were killed by firearms that year, and more than 200 were killed in accidents with guns. In 2009, almost 7,400 children were hospitalized because of injuries related to guns.

Doctors who ask about guns aren’t doing so because they’re nosy. They’re doing so because the vast majority of those deaths and injuries are preventable.

Doctor’s advise us about risky behaviors all the time; it’s their job. It makes zero sense that someone who is privy to the most personal details about your health and body should not be allowed a piece of information that will help them help you. For every responsible gun owner that keeps their firearms locked and safely managed, there are plenty who don’t. Why take information away from these people? Why can’t we ever be smart and reasonable about the issue of gun ownership – and realize that a lack of knowledge about safe storage and handling kills thousands of our citizens every year?

Of course, rejecting discussion of a risk-laden topic isn’t much different from rejecting discussion of what you eat, or what’s physically ailing you. You’re hurting only yourself. What this now-upheld Florida law does is prevent doctors from helping other people, who might want the assistance. Anticipatory guidance is about stopping injuries before they happen. This law, passed in the name of protecting privacy, prevents doctors from practicing good medicine.

It is absolutely my business if there is a gun stored in a home where my child may play. My mother takes care of my children during the day – and as many older people do, takes a variety of prescription drugs to manage ailments. If I were hosting a playdate and a parent asked me if there were prescription drugs in my home and where they were stored I would gladly answer. Why we are defaulting to a state of no transparency around gun ownership is baffling to me. It’s a shame that doctors in Florida are being prevented from doing all they can do to manage the health of their patients. It’s absurd that the issue of gun ownership has become this “private, personal” matter that no one can touch.

(photo: Yevhen Vitte/ Shutterstock)

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  • KaeTay

    Regardless of the injuries… a gun does not directly affect my life.. it’s not the same as a cold. Instead of being mad that doctors can’t go “you own a gun! and have a kid! You’re a horrible parent” why not aim for say… mandatory classes and fines if a gun is not stored properly.

    It’s none of my doc’s business if I own a gun.

    I really hate the reasons for why people don’t like guns. Their idea is just to eradicate them completely which will never happen since nothing can be taken out of the constitution, just edited. You should just be pushing for a middle ground. That’s what me; a gun owner, and a mother aims for.

    • ChelseaBFH

      My doctor asked us if our home has lead paint, if we have a dog, etc. To me, that’s fine – these are things that could potentially affect my kids’ health, and the doctor should take the chance to council us about their safety. Why is gun ownership different than these other environmental factors?

      It’s also worth noting that parents aren’t required to tell if they have a gun if a doctor asks; if they feel strongly that it’s none of the doctors business, they don’t have to discuss it. This law prevents doctors from even bringing it up, which denies everyone an opportunity to discuss something that could have an impact on their kids health and safety.

    • Spongeworthy

      Yes, this. I just mentioned this above. Our doc asked about guns–they also asked if we had a pool or pets. All are things that could be dangerous to a child.

    • Alexandra

      My doctor has never asked about this.
      Guess he really doesn’t care about our kids.
      Or maybe he just handles the medical stuff. Like, if I brought my child in with allergies, he may ask about a pet?
      IDK maybe he assumes I wouldn’t let my unsupervised 4 month old in a pool or around an animal unattended….wow parental responsibility is alive and well! Don’t need the nanny state “watching out” for my child. Thanks!!

    • Spongeworthy

      Good for you?
      I didn’t say anywhere that I’m advocating for anything, just sharing my experience. Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what your doctor asks you, or if you are a responsible parent, or your thoughts about the “nanny state”.

    • Alexandra

      Degenerating to curse words. The last resort of the feeble mind.
      Lovely.
      Have a nice day!

    • Spongeworthy

      You’re adorable. Those who speak of the “nanny state” are always so convinced of their superior intellect. Kisses!

    • WriterLady

      And damn it…I just now wrote up this long post to her, only to realize she’d bolted hours ago (although I hope she’s still lingering). If someone is going to act like a sanctimonious jerk for absolutely no reason, don’t expect people to be all lovey-dovey in return.

    • WriterLady

      Oh my, you handled that well. It looks like we have a rage quitter. Lol!!

    • http://twitter.com/jessbakescakes JessBakesCakes
    • Spongeworthy

      I love you for this.

    • Spongeworthy

      My first one!

    • KaeTay

      mine never asked either..My daughter did have a severe allergic reaction; the E.R never asked about a pet but then again we knew it was from a meatball. but for those who do have a pool:

      http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865606179/Utah-schools-teach-lifesaving-swim-lessons-to-babies-as-young-as-4-months.html?pg=all

      there’s a video that demonstrates how it works and can be taught as young as 4 months old.

    • K>

      Then…congratulations? You’ve found the perfect doctor for you.

      Still don’t see why it should be ILLEGAL for Florida doctors to ask the question–they have all kinds of different patients with medical needs that are different from yours.

    • WriterLady

      A well-rounded pediatrician will ask any number of questions to ensure a parent knows the risks associated with many ordinary things that could suddenly turn into a potential danger. I have no idea why this is being lumped into the “nanny state” argument that is so popular right. To me, it’s common sense….the more parents know, the better for their families. And while we’d all like to fancy ourselves as adept and knowledgeable on all issues, not a single one of us is all-knowing or immune to the dangers children face each and every day.

      Regarding the initiative in Florida: A parent is under NO obligation to discuss any of these matters (including gun ownership), but for every person who wants to retain privacy and doesn’t see the value in having these discussions, there are perhaps hundreds of parents who would gladly accept as much information as possible. For those who fall in the latter camp, there is always the option to opt-out. Nobody is forcing you to reveal anything. You have the right to say, “No,” or “I’d rather not discuss this matter.” It’s really pretty simple.

    • KaeTay

      Which is why I push for gun education when buying a gun. You don’t need a doctor to tell you the dangers of a gun (and in all honesty they aren’t the ones to get info from about guns anyway; a range teacher would be a better place).

      I have a former military spouse, she’ll have all the info and talk that she needs. I think gun safety is pretty much idiot proof.. but some people find that loophole (enter injuries) which is why I always push for mandatory educational classes and even mandatory shooting lessons when purchasing a gun.

    • ChelseaBFH

      I think gun education when buying a gun is great, and I definitely don’t think that anything a doctor says should replace education from trained professionals. I guess I just don’t see what’s so bad about another chance to check in about safety – I imagine that giving some thought to how your gun is stored is just as much part of baby proofing as reevaluating where your cleaning products are stored. If you’re responsible about your guns and how they’re kept, why is it a problem if your doctor brings it up? “Do you have a gun?” “Yes” “is it safely stored?” “Yes.” (And if you do have a problem answering the question, just decline to answer!)

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Agreed. Gun violence and accidental injuries and death have become so common place that I think that ANY chance that have we to educate people about guns should be taken. As I said in another post, if you don’t grow up around guns, you really aren’t thinking about all the dangers associated with them. Yes, they are dangerous but you just aren’t as equipped to anticipate all the dangers surrounding them as someone who is familiar with them.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      I’ve never been lectured by my pediatrician after answering the question. It was a simple risk assessment, and they went over precautions and moved on.

    • K.

      I’ve never known a pediatrician or a doctor to “lecture” a person about gun ownership. They’ve simply asked in the interest of trying to understand how to help you live a healthy lifestyle. Owning a gun is not contrary to being healthy, but there is risk involved in owning one, and you can reduce the risks by practicing responsible ownership. Upon learning someone has a gun, recommending that they observe basic home safety guidelines is in service to that person’s health and the health of their family. In some cases, I could conceive of a doctor asking the question to try and assess a patient’s emotional well-being. For example, if a doctor feels that someone’s teenaged son might be clinically depressed, then knowing about firearms in the house is good information for the doctor to have–some parents might not realize that the likelihood of suicide goes up when the person has access to a firearm. Alternatively, a doctor might also want to know this if s/he suspects that a patient is struggling with PPD–that might also be something to address with the partner or husband.

      If you consider it none of the doctor’s business whether you own a gun, then don’t tell him/her. You’re not obligated to respond to the question.

      I think there are people who simply don’t think it should be *illegal* for a doctor to ask you about gun ownership.

    • Jem

      Do you know what I hate? how people who are pro gun think that people want to “completely eradicate guns”. Any time I try to have a reasonable discussion with pro gun people about why background checks and gun registries are a good thing to ensure that “only the good guys have guns” as you say, they plug their ears and go “NANANANANA SHE’S TRYING TO BAN ALL GUNS”. A lot of people are not suggesting banning guns. They are suggesting safe, reasonable limits just like cars have. But pro gun people are hearing none of it and making conversations useless.

    • WriterLady

      I do not own a gun, but I would be open to having a handgun for protection, locked up securely, if we lived in an area where I thought it would be necessary. (We aren’t hunters, so there isn’t a need to have guns for that purpose).

      But, as Jem has stated, there is this huge misunderstanding about what 95% of gun control advocates are trying to accomplish. First off, nobody that I know of (or have even heard of) wants to abolish the 2nd amendment. We recognize that the 2nd amendment is useful for two reasons: hunting and protection. Responsible gun ownership is not something we are trying to dismantle. At the same time, gun violence has become an epidemic in this country. That is not a hyperbolic statement; it’s a fact.

      Most of us would like to see two things happen:
      1.) Much more stringent background checks across the board. People who have committed violent misdemeanors (domestic violence, for example) or have protection orders in place should be barred from obtaining a weapon—not just felons. Additionally, those with serious mental health issues, and particularly those with a medically documented record of potential for violence, should also be declined.
      2.) Ban access to semi-automatic rifles and any military-grade weapons. There really isn’t a single justifiable need for ordinary citizens who aren’t in the military or law enforcement to have legal access to AR-15s (just as one example).

    • brebay

      Look, you’re not under oath at a doctor’s visit, you’re free to refuse to answer, or to just plain lie. And thinking that everyone who hates guns is in favor of their complete eradication is just ignorant.

  • Ursi

    Ehhhhhh. I see both sides of this. All firearms should be properly registered to begin with. I just don’t understand why a doctor needs this info at all. And I won’t even start on the hot button topic of whether people should feel the need to disclose whether they own a gun to begin with to friends, other parents, etc.

    I feel strongly that all children should be taught basic firearm safety and what to do if they encounter a gun that is not stored. Because it’s easier to educate them than to police our neighbors. Adults are always at fault when children get ahold of guns. But they don’t have to be helpless. If you live in a place where guns are legal to own then even if you are stringently against them it wouldn’t hurt to talk seriously with your child about gun safety.

    • KaeTay

      I think it would be nice is they imposed fines for not storing a gun properly and I’m even for requiring a gun safe being required. I’m all for finding a safe middle ground when it comes to guns.

    • Spongeworthy

      When we had our kid, our pediatrician asked us about guns in the home (I live in New England). We don’t have any, but I was curious and asked them what they do if people say yes. Basically they give some handouts on gun safety, storage, and stuff like that. She also said that it’s helpful info if a parent comes to the pedi when the kid is older and reports that they fear their child is depressed, or is showing any anti-social behavior. They can then remind the parent to be mindful of their guns and how they’re stored–if their kid is depressed, they don’t want the kid to have easy access to a gun if they’re suicidal.
      I don’t see the big deal of asking. They also asked us if we had a swimming pool. It’s risk assessment.
      I have no problem with guns in general, or responsible gun ownership. I do think there are lots of people who think they are responsible and aren’t. I’m sure a lot of people whose kids died playing with their guns thought they were responsible.

    • KaeTay

      you can still hand out a pamphlet for gun safety without asking.

    • Spongeworthy

      Sure you can. And I think gun safety is an important thing to teach ALL children. I’m just stating what my pedi told me.

  • Alexandra

    It’s not a DOCTOR”s business if I have a gun. As Ursi said, they should be registered, and the important ppl (state and police) know about them.
    Just like I wouldn’t want to tell the police if I had Herpes!

    • Bic

      Exactly. I think if necessary gun safety it could be part of Pre-natal(?) classes in general, without asking if people have a gun. Also up to date information could be handed out to with other info on child safety, but it’s not to your Doctor to give lectures on anything. They can give advice and information, but that’s it.

    • Lindsey

      And if they don’t know if you have a gun, how can they give advice on how to keep you and your kids safe?

    • Bic

      Like I said they can give the information out to everyone, without asking individuals if they have a gun. Which would probably work better since even if the parents don’t have a gun, they may have relatives or friends that do and it would give them a reminder on what to check for. Especially if they are allowing the child to be babysat at someone else’s home. Same would go for pools and pets as someone mentioned down thread.

    • Lindsey

      It would be good, but I still think that targeted information is going to useful.

    • WriterLady

      Agreed. I think it could be part of an overall discussion on potential hazards in the home for everyone. That way, people inclined to deny that they possess firearms would still receive pertinent information and (possibly?) resources without feeling frightened by the notion that their ownership of guns could be used against them in a legal setting. Irresponsible gun ownership often goes hand-in-hand with other bad or outright dangerous habits, and these people are usually paranoid, so I can’t picture someone in this scenario volunteering this information (nor do I feel that it should be an obligation for all pediatric patients and their families), but the more informed people are, the better off we all are as a society.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      I’d personally much rather have my firearm ownership protected by doctor-patient confidentiality than have it a matter of public record as a result of registration. I’m much less concerned with what my doctor could do with the information than what the police or government could do with it.

    • K.

      There are shitload of guns that are not registered. I’ve got a friend with 10 years working as a city prosecutor and she has never–repeat, NEVER–came across a gun in like, thousands she’s seen, that was registered or permitted. They’re always given away/stolen without a traceable past. Guns are currency in that environment–you’d have as much luck tracking them as you would a dollar bill.

      And children also exist in that environment. So in consideration of the health and safety of the children, it is a viable question to ask, just as some pediatricians ask about pets and pools.

      I’m not really getting the paranoia, frankly. Why is it such a big deal for a doctor to ask the question? What exactly is the harm?

  • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

    My instructor made it clear we should never share that we own a gun publicly. For a lot of reasons 1-it makes it enticing for criminals (Free guns!) 2-you don’t want people snooping for the guns 3-people get very antsy around guns. I don’t think I’d share with my doctor my gun ownership either. I did say on the other post that if a parent asked me directly I’d have no problem saying I owned guns and outlining how I keep their kid safe.

    • Spongeworthy

      I think it’s a little different talking to your doctor about it than telling any random person who asks. I wouldn’t tell a random stranger about the burning sensation when I pee.
      It makes sense for your instructor to advise you to not go shouting around that you have a gun. I guess I just don’t see that as the same thing as discussing things with a doctor.

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      They aren’t. But my instructor flat out said. Do not tell ANYONE you have a gun. I think the whole issue could be resolved by a doctor saying “If you have guns at home, you need to be sure they are locked up xyz” Then they are doing their job. When a cop who teaches gun classes says “Do not tell anyone you have a gun”. I’m gonna go with what he said.

    • Spongeworthy

      That’s fine. You do what you’re comfortable with. Like I said, I think I look at conversations with my doctor differently than conversations out in public. I’m also looking at my conversation with my doctor, as an adult, differently than conversations with my pediatrician.
      With our pediatrician, she was asking about our home environment so she could specifically tailor her info to what could be risk factors in the home. I don’t expect the same from my doctor. I find it normal for a pediatrician to ask me if I have a pool, because they want to know if there’s a risk to my kid. If my doctor asked me if I had a pool at home as part of taking my own medical history, I’d find that a bit odd. That’s the difference to me.

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      After reading some of the…over the top responses to this article. I don’t think it should be illegal to ask. That’s just crazy town. But yea maybe this is one of those times where as a non-parent I’m like “pump your brakes” when with kids it wouldn’t occur to me to not answer. But yea I don’t think there is some conspiracy in tracking my guns or anything. Some of the comments I’ve seen are…out there.

    • WriterLady

      Oh yeah…this is one of the crazier posts I’ve seen in a long time, particularly the rude-as-hell chick who made a few heavy-handed comments and then announced she was leaving. Reminds me of a certain discussion some of us had yesterday…

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      RAGE QUIT… (See you next week!)

    • K.

      Yeah, and I just wrote this but the chick left I think before I realized, so I’m kind of left with this confusion as to…um, what’s with the paranoia? (not with you, but the sort of way out there comments)

      I mean, doctors typically ask all kinds of deeply personal things (I got asked if I was “into rough sex” because of a bad UTI once). A doctor is not going to report anyone for having a gun because…there’s nothing to report. It’s legal to own one. And Christ–I’ve been asked if I use drugs which ARE illegal and no doctor has ever reported me regarding past drug use. They’re simply trying to assess someone’s lifestyle in conjunction with their health, and yes, firearms in the home do have a relationship to someone’s health and well-being. Think of cases of depression or PTSD, for example…

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      With mental health all bets are off. I ask if they have a gun, where do they keep it how hard is it to access etc. But I guess I never really considered that a doctor would need to know if I had a gun. Maybe I’ll feel differently if I become a parent, but right now I feel like it’s a “need to know” and the doctor doesn’t need to know. I just wanted to clarify, lol, because I don’t think anyone is coming to take my guns, I don’t think it should be illegal to ask and to reiterate safety precautions. But as an adult I find no medical necessity to ask that question.

    • K.

      I guess that’s the answer–were a doctor to ask you and you didn’t see the reason why then you could certainly ask them why they need to know.

    • Kelly

      I agree with your instructor. The only way anyone is going to find out that I have a gun is if they threaten my life or my the lives of y family members and force me to shoot them.

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      I understand parents wanting to know if their kids come over, but I think if it’s causing a stink a quick rundown on gun safety would be better v. making it illegal to ask.

    • Kelly

      I have to admit I don’t understand it and I feel no obligation to tell other parents about my weapons unless they are threatening my life and I’m literally in the act of defending myself and shooting them. Then I assume they’ll figure it out.

      I don’t think anyone is ever going to say, “Yes, we’re total fucking morons when it comes to gun safety and leave loaded handguns out for the children to play with.”

      Also, this law isn’t about making it illegal for people to ask each other about weapons so that isn’t an issue.

    • brebay

      Yeah, if your doctor wants to break into your home and commit a crime, he can probably afford his own gun…

    • Ursi

      This should be television drama; Broke Doctor Burglar. “Hide your guns because the Doctor is in… YOUR HOUSE!”

    • K.

      I don’t think that talking to your doctor is quite the same as submitting “public” information–a consultation with a physician is generally considered confidential. There’s also nothing that compels you, legally, at least to disclose information to your doctor if you don’t want to, as you point out. For that reason, I don’t think that it should be *illegal* for a doctor to ask about it.

    • Amber Leigh Wood

      I think it would be important for a Dr to know in the case of mental illnesses or suicidal tendencies, they could possibly prevent a tragedy if there is another family member present that can be asked to monitor the person around their guns

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      Working in the mental health field we do ask if someone has access to weapons if they have shown signs of suicidal thoughts or a history of attempts. I know locally, doctors DON’T ask if a client is suicidal or homicidal, because if they do, the dr is then obligated to manage that. Most GPs don’t want to bother. Obviously that’s not everywhere but in the last 2 years I’ve had over 200 clients and I cannot recall a single client whose doctor asked about their mental health. They either prescribed an anti depressant or told them to wait a bit and then come back if they didn’t feel better.

  • Alexandra

    ETA:
    A doctor also never asked me if I drive at a high rate of speed. (My life insurance has asked this).
    Or ride horses. (ditto)
    Or do anything else with a “high risk of injury or death”.
    Doctor’s job is to advise on Medical issues. Insurers may ask about risky behaviours because they’re insuring your life/property, etc.
    Has a doctor ever asked if you have a pitbull? :)

    • Spongeworthy

      My pediatrician asked about pets in the home, yes. And if we had a swimming pool.

    • Melissa

      Doctors don’t generally ask adult patients about their own risky habits or behaviors. The whole issue here is children, and the common-sense steps parents can take to keep them safer. The things adults do that can put children at risk are absolutely a health concern, as a leading cause of death in children is accidents in and around the home, which is why pediatricians ask the questions they do.

    • K.

      My doctor has asked me lifestyle questions when relevant to medical issues.

      In the case of pediatricians, however, they are employed to protect the health interests of children, not the “privacy” of parents and it is in the interest of the child’s health and well-being to ask parents about potential home hazards and to inform them of how to reduce the risks. Our pedi, for example, asked us all kinds of lifestyle questions when she first met us, such as did we have a pool, did we own a dog and what kind of carseat did we have. On the last point, she also gave us the number for a service that comes around to check proper installation for carseats–not as a requirement, but because she had the information on resources (then later, she also asked did we move the straps up on the carseat to accommodate his growth spurt? Lo and behold, we had not until she reminded us). Asking someone if they have firearms in the home and if they are properly stored is within these lines of questioning. The doctor can then likewise provide advice and resources on safe gun ownership.

      Furthermore, I don’t see how it’s a violation of “privacy.” For one, a patient is not under obligation to provide this information, and two, a doctor is not law enforcement and they are not asking to search for possible legal violations (they’re not going to check and see if your firearms are properly licensed and permitted); they ARE asking in the interest of health–the same way that they might ask about your alcohol consumption or the number of sexual partners you have had.

    • brebay

      doctors ask about seatbelt use all the time…

  • TngldBlue

    What exactly is a doctor going to do with this information that might prevent accidents or death? People who are irresponsible with firearms aren’t uneducated, they are careless.

    • Lindsey

      That’s simply not true. Many people who own guns have never been taught about ways to keep kids safe around guns.

    • KaeTay

      it baffles me that a person doesn’t naturally feel the need to keep a dangerous object out of reach of children, unloaded, with a safety on… that’s like leaving the kitchen knives on the floor.

    • Lindsey

      It baffles me as well. But of course, I was taught gun safety, in school and at home, as well as growing up in a house that was childproofed at all. Some people simply don’t have that background and maybe we can’t change everyone, but if doctors giving out information helps, then why not?

    • TngldBlue

      Educated probably wasn’t the best word. You have to be a special kind of moron not to realize, just by general common sense, that guns are weapons that kill and children shouldn’t be allowed to play with them. Hence my point they are just careless and no doctor giving them a pamphlet is going to change that.

    • K.

      I mean, to me, the more education and resources devoted to safe gun ownership the better.

      The doctor may or may not be able to do affect change in a patient (which is ALWAYS the case when it comes to medical advice–the doc can advise you that you shouldn’t eat a diet of pork rinds and Coke, but they can’t force you to change that behavior), but in the case of pediatricians, especially concerning pre-school-aged kids, they are usually the only regular outside contact the child has, and in that sense, they may very well be the only person that can voice certain concerns to a parent about the child’s health and lifestyle that the parent wouldn’t receive elsewhere.

      In the case of handguns, especially in an urban area like my own, it’s common for parents to believe that if the gun is “hidden” or “out of reach” and they tell their kid it’s dangerous and not to touch it, then they’re good and the kids are safe. They may not have a reason to believe otherwise until someone can explain to them why “hidden”/”out of reach”/”don’t touch!” aren’t good enough for young kids.

    • TngldBlue

      I understand why doctors ask. I don’t have a problem with doctors asking. I think it’s ridiculous this went to court as no one was being forced to answer. But a parent who is careless enough to leave a loaded gun on their dresser in reach of their kid is not going to change because a pediatrician gave them a vague handout. Maybe I’m just cynical but with all the information out there today, we still have kids accidentally shooting themselves so I just don’t think lack of education is the main problem here and believing a 30 second talk and a pamphlet is doing anything at all is tilting at windmills.

    • K.

      I get your cynicism; I do. Ultimately, I think that it shouldn’t be against the law for a doctor to inquire about a gun, which is really where the problem is for me, but I agree that doctors are probably limited in their effects.

      Having said that, I have a friend who teaches gun safety as part of a volunteer organization, and one of the things that she told me that I find shocking is that the majority of parents she speaks to–the MAJORITY–do not have their guns locked away OR unloaded. That isn’t to say they have their guns out in the open, either–they have them “hidden” as in, in a box under the bed or in the closet and they honestly think that’s enough. In those cases, the gap isn’t that they aren’t realizing the necessity to keep the gun from the child; the gap in knowledge is that they don’t realize how to properly do that.

      (the other demonstration she has is a video of her toddler trying to shoot a water gun, which demonstrates that the only way he can manipulate the trigger with his small hands and limited dexterity and strength, is to hold the grip in both hands and push the trigger with both thumbs…with the barrel pointed directly at his face. When she shows this to parents, they gasp because to some, it never occurs to them that a toddler *can* shoot a handgun (really?) and to others, they don’t realize that the “natural” grip for a kid that young is literally to blow their own head off)

      I mean, we are talking about urban areas and neighborhoods in which guns are currency and therefore, forget permits and license and safety classes–most guns probably come from “so-and-so’s cousin who’s now incarcerated in Peoria”–so it’s a different population than those who purchase their guns at actual shops, but nevertheless, these generally are people who aren’t stupid; they’re are just lacking information.

    • WriterLady

      I basically alluded to what you’ve said in the comments thread above yours, but I took a slightly different angle. My guess is that truly irresponsible gun owners will lie about having guns in the house over fears that they will somehow get in trouble. This may be a bit of a generalization, but people who do things like leave a loaded weapon on a countertop with young kids running around most likely have other problems. They may have misdemeanors or mental issues, or they may have had contact with CPS that was legitimately warranted. This information all goes on record, and HIPPA laws can’t prevent this type of information from being shared with law enforcement agencies. And since doctors and nurses are mandatory reporters, any information that seems even remotely dangerous has to be passed on to the feds (or at least that’s how most states operate).

      However, I think the practice of asking about guns and offering information is a step in the right direction. I’m just not sure it will reach the demographic that truly needs it. Still, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to scrap the whole proposal. If even one or two lives are saved, it’s a success in my opinion.

    • TngldBlue

      Well said :)

    • WriterLady

      Thank you!

  • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    Our pediatrician asks this once a year as part of a risk assessment. I’ve never had a problem answering it. We own firearms, and they are safely stored. I don’t feel like we have anything to hide. It’s never been more than a cursory “Are there firearms in the home?” and a quick rundown of precautions, which we already take. Why Florida would feel the need to interfere between patients and doctors on the matter is just…ridiculous.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Agreed. I don’t see a problem with the doctor asking about potential risk factors and then supplying information regarding the mitigation of risk.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      And there are people that just don’t know better. It truly could save a life.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Yes, this. Not everyone grows up around firearms. I certainly did not, because they were pretty much completely illegal where I grew up. I wouldn’t have known A THING about safety not because I am stupid, but because I was inexperienced.

    • ChelseaBFH

      Or just, haven’t thought it through. Not everyone thinks of everything – We didn’t think to turn down the temperature in our hot water heater until someone suggested it as part of baby proofing. I’m sure that (regardless of how responsible they are) not every gun owner has thought of every possible way to store their gun, or that sometimes new methods or research has come out since the gun owners educated themselves. Being unwilling to even discuss it raises red flags for me, because if you really are committed to safety, what don’t you want to discuss?

    • Melissa

      I think the people who refuse to discuss safe gun ownership with their doctors are the same ones who are paranoid about how “they” are going to come and take away my guns and oppose any and all gun-owning and carrying restrictions. Just a theory.

    • WriterLady

      Yep, this is what I was thinking. Medical professionals are mandatory reporters, and HIPPA privacy laws aren’t quite as ‘safe’ as some people would believe. An example: When a person who is suffering from major depression mentions suicidal thoughts, the doctor has to report the information. Although I am a staunch supporter of gun control legislation as well as responsible gun ownership, I can kind of see where someone might be afraid to answer “yes” to this question for fear of being reported, particularly if the family’s record isn’t squeaky clean. If the family already had some issues (CPS visits, domestic violence reports, etc.), they aren’t going to openly offer this information. In the end, I think it’s helpful to have the discussions about guns, but the majority of irresponsible citizens will probably end up lying anyway. Still, I’m all for doctors at least making an attempt to reach out with helpful safety tips.

    • Jem

      It might be different from state to state, but where I am mandatory reporters do NOT have to report someone just for having suicidal thoughts. The reporting comes in if they tell you that they have a plan.

    • WriterLady

      In Ohio, it is mandatory….even for the strangest reasons. I was an adjunct instructor of English at a university in Dayton, Ohio for a few years. One time, a girl wrote a memoir about contemplating suicide. At the time, I didn’t do anything about it, although it disturbed me and I was fearful when she didn’t return after the fourth class.

      A year or two later, I learned that teachers who receive papers that discuss suicide are mandated to report it to the school administrators, who are in return required to report it to a counselor or psychiatrist. There have been teachers who have been reprimanded or even fired for not following the protocol if one of their students committed suicide.

    • brebay

      That may be school policy, but it is NOT Ohio law, they need only report an imminent threat of suicide, not suicidal ideation.

    • WriterLady

      Okay, let me clarify: This girl wrote up an account of her own suicide in plain terms. Laws can be murky. I just briefly checked into it (beyond my own knowledge), and there have been school districts who have been held liable in civil suits when English teachers have not come forward. But I was mainly referring to the mandatory policy of reporting the threat to school officials—not law enforcement. I never mentioned LE.

      And, yes, school counselors are absolutely required to report threats of suicide to the next level medical professional, usually a certified psychiatrist (and that does include papers in which suicide is discussed beyond a third-person account). I was told that if an incident like that occurred again, I HAD to report it or I would lose my job. Also, the girl who wrote the memoir was to go into counseling within three weeks of the reporting, or she would have been kicked out of her classes for that semester. I was given a warning, since I didn’t know the policy, and the girl dropped out, so nothing came to fruition. Remember, I taught college, so that’s what I most familiar with. Primary and secondary schooling may have slightly different policies.

    • WriterLady

      More information for you specifically regarding suicide in K-12 schools from the American School Counselor Association:

      Until the Eisel vs. Montgomery County Board of Education court case (1991), courts consistently found that school counselors did not “owe a legal duty” to prevent a student’s suicide. Eisel strengthened school counselors’ legal obligation to students by satisfying for the first time the first element of negligence and declaring that school counselors have a special relationship with students and owe a duty to try to prevent a student’s suicide. The court in the Eisel case cited as critical the in loco parentisdoctrine, which means that educators, including school counselors, are legally standing in for parents and owe a special duty to exercise reasonable care to protect a student from harm. The court concluded school counselors have a duty to use reasonable means to attempt to prevent a suicide when they are placed on notice of a student’s suicidal intent.

      The Maryland Court of Appeals in the Eisel case ruled that school counselors had a duty to notify the parents of a 13-year-old student about the suicidal statements she made to fellow students.

      A school counselors’ legal liability ends when school authorities or parents have been notified that a student is at risk and appropriate actionas have been recommended. School counselors should be sure to document htier notification. However, a school counselor’s ethical obligation to a suicidal student may extend beyond parental notification. If a student isn’t helped after notifying parents or guardians, then the student’s counseling needs haven’t been met.

      **It appears that things have changed since the early 90s, and, in most cases, teachers and counselors have a duty and obligation to report suicidal tendencies. This is amplified, of course, if the student actually commits suicide.

    • brebay

      Nice. I looked up the actual law, and I have a JD so you don’t need to define in loco parentis;) Anyway, she was talking about college, not K-12, I looked up the actual Ohio statute, it’s the same as most states, where discussing having thought about suicide (as nearly all depressed persons do at some point) does NOT require mandatory reporting under the law of Ohio, only a “present intent.” The school may choose to follow the guidelines of the a counselor’s association instead, provided they are more, not less stringent, but they are not required to do so by law.

    • WriterLady

      Again, I never mentioned law enforcement or CPS in relation to suicides–not in any of my posts. That does not mean, however, that they aren’t mandated to take some action. Schools can be held liable in a lawsuit if they knew of a potential threat, either in verbal or written form, and did not follow through by alerting parents and requiring them to see a counselor. I’m not going to rehash all of this, but feel free to read another explanation I gave above to Jem. If you disagree with the information provided, that’s your prerogative, but please do not distort my words. My use of “mandatory reporting” was intended to mean that the school was obligated to do two things (as previously described) if they wanted to keep themselves out of the courtroom in case of a fatality due to a suicide. At no point does a teacher or school-appointed counselor need to report suicidal issues to CPS, though (which I never stated in the first place). And, yes, a school can choose not to follow the rules, but there are consequences when counselors or other faculty members do not follow the criteria set forth for them.

    • Jem

      ok see there is the difference. Mandatory Reporting as I understood it is a mandate that you report to CPS or Adult Protection. Reporting to your supervisors is more a workplace protocol then the law. With mandatory reporting, there have actually been cases where people got in trouble because they reported abuse to their supervisor, and not CPS/AP and they should have just gone straight to the source.

    • WriterLady

      Yeah, that’s what I was mostly getting at, but there are instances when the law *can* be involved. I did a little research into this last night, because another poster questioned my statement (and rightfully so—I’m not an expert on this matter). In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure of the scope of the mandatory reporting in K-12 school districts.

      If you get the chance, see my response to Brebay below, which outlines how schools are legally and ethically required to handle issues related to suicide. It looks like schools can be sued if any of the faculty members knew that a student had expressed suicidal thoughts, either verbally or in written form, and did not take appropriate action. But I think the “taking action” part means they are obligated to do two things (neither of which involve CPS, probably because suicidal tendencies/ideation aren’t necessarily an indication that a family is doing something wrong, unlike suspected cases of abuse). The two-part plan of action is as follows: 1.) An administrator must report any incidents to the parents; and 2.) The students is required to see a therapist or other mental health professional and follow a specific plan of action. Basically, schools don’t want to be held liable if a student were to commit suicide and it was found that a teacher, school-designated counselor, or other faculty member knew about the problem and remained silent.

    • Psych Student

      I don’t know about medical doctors, but therapists can only report suicidal concerns if someone has a plan and means not just thoughts.

    • WriterLady

      Yes, writing a paper that states one is going to commit suicide qualifies as intent. Verbal or written statements of suicidal intent qualifies as a need to report. It’s currently a major issue with writing/English teachers right now.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      At the very least, it’s a reminder that guns and kids don’t mix, and that everyone could stand to review their system from time to time and make sure that it is still secure.

    • ChelseaBFH

      Yeah, I imagine that any gun-storage system set up when there were two adults living in the house would need a little tweaking when you add a baby to the mix. What’s wrong with some guidance through that process?

    • Spongeworthy

      This has been my experience too. Apparently that makes me part of the “nanny state”.

    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      Yeah, I get accused of that whenever I am reasonable, too.

    • Spongeworthy

      Good to know it’s not just me ;)

  • Melissa

    OK, so every time I take my daughters to their pediatrician, I have to fill in a questionnaire about their development (motor skills and all that), which also includes questions about health and safety like, “Have you turned your water heater down to 120 degrees? Are there any smokers in the home?” etc. Makes sense to add a question about weapons, as in, “If there are any weapons in the home, are they locked away securely?”. I don’t know what a doctor could realistically do if someone answered “no” or refused to answer the question, other than try his/her best to educate that parent on safety.At any rate, no one in my house will ever own a gun, and I will never let my daughters play at a friend’s house without asking about guns and weather they are locked up. If I got the “none of your business” response, sorry not playing over there ever. Nope. The safety of my children is always my business.

  • KaeTay

    Since pools have been brought up I’m going to mention a type of swim training called ISR that can be taught as young as 4 months old. There are over 700 documented cases of children saving themselves using this method:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865606179/Utah-schools-teach-lifesaving-swim-lessons-to-babies-as-young-as-4-months.html?pg=all

  • Michael Weldon

    Fair enough article. However, by stats the danger of distracted driving is about 1500x as much as a gun or a pool or a pit bull.
    We absolutely suck at realizing what actually kills or harms us. Its amazing to see how many people freak out about a dog or a gun but are totally cool with doing 6 things at once on the road.

    • K.

      …which is also why pediatricians (ours at least) ask questions about what kind of carseat you have.

    • brebay

      The point is that a car is a necessity, and doctors DO ASK about carseats/seatbelts, it’s routine to ask if you wear a seatbelt, along with whether you smoke.

    • Michael Weldon

      I did say the article had a point. Mine is that if you look up here or on other sites there will be 2 or 3 times the articles about guns or pit bulls as there are about cell phones, when in reality cell phone abuse on the roads is a far greater danger to the average citizen. Heck, drivers eating drive thru food on the road probably kills more kids than drowing, guns, and pools combined and you never see articles about that.

    • brebay

      There aren’t a lot of articles an heart disease either, not because people aren’t aware it’s the leading cause of death….get a grip.

  • Jem

    I’m increasingly bothered by the trend of lawmakers (with no medical training whatsoever) being allowed to dictate to doctors (who have many years of medical training and experience) how to do their job and what they can and cannot say.

    • K.

      We have a WINNAH!

      (seriously, the number of people who are saying “It’s not my doctor’s biznez what I do in my own home!!” is kind of ridiculous. It’s not a matter of what a doctor should/shouldn’t ask; it’s a matter of what they are being legally prohibited from asking…especially when the patient is under no obligation to respond or respond truthfully anyway)

    • Johnstone

      Seriously. With this logic, if the child comes in covered in bruises, the doctor shouldn’t ask / be concerned about abuse ‘CAUSE IT’S NOT HIS BIZNEZ (to borrow your awesome spelling).

      If you have a gun in your house, why so ashamed? Because you know you actually SHOULDN’T have a gun in your house?

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    Boy has your country got you trained. Filling out questionaires every visit, going to a pediatrician instead of a family doctor and so on and so on.
    Had three kids, never turned down the water heater……why, cause neither my wife nor I are morons to put a child in just any water without testing it first.
    And as for guns, it is no one’s damn business but mine. So this is actually a great judgement.

    • Kel

      This is like, the weirdest comment ever.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      No, just taking in the fact that you americans are so dependant on others telling you what you should be doing, instead of relying on yourselves. This in turn creates the sense of entitlement that I should have to inform you about my personal and private lives.
      We had this gun talk on the other story about kids visiting.
      What guns if any are my family’s affair, and no one else’s. Sure you may ask, and depending on the mood I am in, I may lie, or just tell you to go fuck yourself, it is none of your damn business.

    • http://twitter.com/jessbakescakes JessBakesCakes

      I rely on people smarter than me with proper training to educate me on how to take care of things I don’t know how to take care of. I take my car to a mechanic, I take my dog and cat to the vet. Why is that so wrong? I’m perfectly self-reliant, to the point where I know my limits and I know when it’s appropriate to seek out some help.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Wimps

    • Johnstone

      You are SO rude. Why are you even here? I expect better from my fellow Canadians.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Sorry Johnstone, sucks to be you. Am not one of the stereo typical Canadians that just takes it. If I smell bullshit, I call it.

    • WriterLady

      Checked out your profile…nice trolling all over Mommyish. And where exactly do you live, if not in the U.S.? Because your rhetoric in every post sounds exactly like something a Tea Party patriot from the heartland of Texas would spew (no disrespect to the logical Texans on this site).

    • K.

      (I thought ‘troll’ too, but I thought it also might be someone who may just be a genuine contrarian).

      Although I’m still mystified at anyone who would be proud of the fact that they have never taken their children to a pediatrician. That’s like when people are *proud* (not just “okay with” or “accepting of”, but take pride in) that they never graduated HS. Or don’t own a passport. Or whittle their own license plates, for that matter.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Couldn’t pay me enough to live in the Land of the Scared and home of the weak. Proudly Canadian. Where we still know what individual rights are rights.

    • Kel

      …how does a doctor asking me if I have a gun in the house mean I’m not self-reliant?

      and what’s the problem with pediatricians? what’s the problem with forms? how is a water heater similar to a gun?

      ???

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Gun stuff aside for now, what issue do you have with visiting pediatricians? I am confused why this would be problematic.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Pediatricians here are specialists, only to be seen at the referal of your family doctor. If your family doctor cannot handle your child’s healthcare needs, you need a new family doctor.
      Had three kids, and not one of them ever visited a pediatrician. But it seems like down there in the states, all kids go to them, for everything. And that is just a crock.

    • http://twitter.com/jessbakescakes JessBakesCakes

      I think it’s simply a cultural difference. I think family doctors know a little about a lot, and pediatricians know a lot about a little, if that makes sense. Doesn’t make it a “crock”. If you don’t think it’s necessary, that’s fine, but it doesn’t make a pediatrician worthless. Plus, to me, a pediatrician often has the demeanor and the interest to work with children. A family doctor works with babies, the elderly, and everyone in between. Because the pediatrician can focus only on caring for children, they may be the person to go to for advice regarding children as opposed to a family doctor, who may not know as much recent information as a a pediatrician does.

      I had a horrible and terrible recurring earache a few years ago. Instead of going to my family doctor, I chose to go to an ear/nose/throat specialist. That ENT discovered that I had ruptured my eardrum and I was in surgery two weeks later. Turns out the family doctor I went to for this recurring earache was actually the one who ruptured the eardrum the last time I went to have someone look at it. The ENT had the special capability and tools to fix my problem, as well as the specific knowledge. My family doctor could not handle my needs properly. I wanted to see a specialist. It’s the same reason I see the eye doctor for my vision.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Then like I said you need a new family doctor. What was it you didn’t understand about that.

    • K.

      Not sure where you’re from but generally speaking in the US, we tend to divide healthcare into HMOs and PPOs. If you have an HMO, you see primary care physicians who then refer you to specialists, most of whom have to be specified doctors within the same health plan as you have. However, in most HMOs, a pediatrician is not really a “specialist” and parents can make appointments directly with a pediatrician whenever they want and do not have to be referred by a PCP.

      For PPOs, you don’t need to have a primary care physician and you don’t need referrals to see specialists. Most people choose their own internist (if adults) and pediatricians (for kids). If a pediatrician or internist recommends further specialized treatment such as an endocrinologist, then they can refer you to someone or you can select your own based on your own research.

      But yeah–in either case, a pediatrician is not a “specialist;” they’re usually considered a primary care doctor.

      It doesn’t make you a credible critic when you condemn entire medical professions, by the way.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Not condemning any profession. In Ontario, a pediatrician is a specialist, to be seen at the referal of your family doctor. If your family doctor isn’t good enough for your kid, why the hell would you see him/her?

    • brebay

      In the US the pediatrician IS your GP if you’re a kid. You’re comparing apples and socialized medicine…

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Just seems like a real waste of time, money and resources to me. Never saw a pediatrician myself, nor did any of my 3 kids. And because of that, our family doctor has a better understanding and knowledge of our family, other than just reading reports.

    • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

      And a pediatrician has a better understanding and knowledge of children. I hesitate to feed you, but you really are insufferable. A pediatrician isn’t a specialist in the US, they are simply a doctor who sees children. Some children do go to the family GP, some see pediatricians because the family, in general, doesn’t have a PCP. My parents rarely went to a doctor, as such they didn’t have a regular physician. As children, we went as frequently as most healthy children do so we saw a pediatrician who knew us and our family situation well. Assuming that because a family takes their kids to a pediatrician the doctor is somehow not getting the whole story is just…dumb.

    • Warren Pacholzuk

      Hey do what you want, it is just hilarious to think of kids going to a different doctor than their parents.
      I talked with our family doctor about the way you guys do it. He even thinks it is a joke. Kids are just smaller versions of adults, and if your family doctor can’t handle it, they shouldn’t be doctors.
      Then again with the way your healthcare system works, you have no choice.

  • guest

    I don’t feel that it’s a doctor’s place to ask if you have guns in your home. What I think, is there should be mental health screenings at the time of purchase AND a mandatory gun safety class if it’s your first weapon. I feel that if your doctor has to tell you how to properly store your gun to keep your child safe, you never shouldve been allowed to own it in the first place. I hate guns, as my dad took his life in march of this year, but if you INSIST on having one…these screenings should take place.

    • brebay

      The thing is they’re ridiculously easy to obtain illegally, so those at greatest risk wouldn’t be impacted. And anyone not clinically insane can pass a cursory suicide assessment with flying colors. It’s called lying.

    • guest

      You’re absolutely right. The exact way my father lied to his doctor. The same way any parent with anything to hide would lie. That doesn’t negate the fact that they should still be legally required to obtain safety training before purchase. They should know of gun safety well before a doctor should have to point it out to them.

    • guest

      Any responsible parent should be more than willing to take a safety class. Those that obtain weapons illegally are completely different. They’re going to lie to a doctor as well, defeating the point of the doctor even asking. Safety should begin BEFORE you own it.

  • SA

    I wouldn’t share. I mean if I do own guns and am depressed or something what are they going to do? They sure as hell wont be taking them so what even the point of their knowing.

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