Politics

Florida Bill Will Come ‘Between Doctors And Patients’ By Prohibiting Pediatricians From Asking About Guns

Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) has been one of the country’s fiercest critics of health care reform, frequently deriding the Affordable Care Act for supposedly coming “between doctors and patients.”

But now Scott is expected to soon sign a first-of-its-kind bill that does just that by forbidding doctors from asking their patients if they own guns. To prevent accidental injuries, pediatricians routinely ask new parents if they have guns at home and if they are stored safely. But the NRA and its allies in the Florida legislature see something more sinister at work — a radical agenda to curb the rights of gun owners.

“For decades,” the American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged its members to ask patients about guns and how they’re stored. In an interview with NPR, Dr. Louis St. Petery explains that doctors have a responsibility to ask parents about everything from car seats to bike helmets to help them keep their kids safe:

“If you have a pool, let’s talk about pool safety so we don’t have accidental drownings,” he says. “And if you have firearms, let’s talk about gun safety so that they’re stored properly — you know, the gun needs to be locked up, the ammunition stored separate from the gun, etc., so that children don’t have access to them.”

But Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in Tallahassee, FL, considers such questions an unacceptable encroachment on Second Amendment rights:

“We take our children to pediatricians for medical care — not moral judgment, not privacy intrusions,” she says. […]

“This bill is about helping families who are complaining about being questioned about gun ownership, and the growing anti-gun political agenda being carried out in examination rooms by doctors and staffs,” Hammer says.

Florida’s Senate and House both agreed with the NRA and voted to approve the bill. But several health care professions have voiced concern that restricting what doctors can or cannot say to their patients will jeopardize public safety. Dr. St. Petery spelled out the alarming consequences if Scott signs the bill into law:

“What I think is going to happen is there’ll be more children injured and killed from firearms in the home that are not properly stored.”

Florida has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the nation with 12.5 gun deaths for every 100,000 people. Similar measures are now being considered in other states, including North Carolina and Alabama.