A Florida gun bill, which the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Florida Pediatric Society have been against, has been approved by both the Florida House and Senate.
The new Florida gun bill, commonly referred to as the 'guns and doctors bill,' was approved by the Florida Senate in a 27-10 vote. It now just needs to be signed by Governor Rick Scott to become a law.
What does the 'guns and doctors bill' do?
Among some other things, it states that 'unless information is relevant to patient's medical care or safety or safety of others, inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession should not be made.'
Since pediatricians often provide gun safety advice, in addition to counseling parents about other safety hazards that together help make accidents the leading cause of death for children, this law will likely affect how they talk to parents.
At routine well child checkups, pediatricians often provide safety advice about:
Kids and Guns
In 2007, there were 122 unintentional firearm deaths in children.
Some more recent gun accidents involving children include:
- an 11-year-old in Indianapolis was accidentally shot by his brother
- three children in Houston who were hurt when a 6-year-old accidentally fired a gun he had brought to school
- an 8-year-old in Alabama died from an accidental shotgun blast
- a 2-year-old in Vermont died after he was accidentally shot with a rifle by a sibling
- a 10-year-old lost use of his right eye after being shot by an older teen cousin while they were playing with a gun that they thought was unloaded
- a 3-year-old in North Carolina shot and killed himself
- a 4-year-old accidentally shot a 12-year-old in Louisiana while playing with a rifle they found in a closet
In addition to trying to prevent these type of tragedies, all of which occurred in the past few weeks, pediatricians might talk about guns and gun safety if a child was thought to be at increased risk for suicide. Since, according the American Academy of Pediatrics, 'suicide completion rises if guns are used,' it would be important to know about and talk about guns in this situation.
That's 122+ reasons why this law is a bad idea.
Why do they need it? One unsubstantiated report of a Florida pediatrician who reportedly wouldn't see a child because the mother wouldn't answer questions about guns in their home.
Marion P. Hammer, of the NRA, in an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, also states that 'Parents take their children to see pediatricians and doctors for medical care, not to be lectured on safety, not to be lectured by a physician on firearm safety and how to store firearms. They're simply not qualified to do it.' She also thinks the bill is important to protect parents who have great concerns that pediatricians are putting things in their child's medical records that can be 'accessed by insurance companies, or the government, and used against them.'
This contrasts with what AAP President O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP says about the Florida gun bill - "This bill is a harmful, unnecessary, and unprecedented government intrusion into the patient-physician relationship. Restricting the type of conversations that physicians can have with patients not only violates physician professional standards and clearly flies in the face of our First Amendment rights to free speech, but gravely threatens the health and well-being of patients. Similar legislation has already been proposed in other states, and we urge leaders in Alabama, North Carolina and elsewhere to reject these bills outright."
Parents should join the AAP in calling on Florida's governor 'to veto this legislation and to protect children from needless injuries and deaths by maintaining a strong physician-patient-family relationship.'
If not, what could be next - a law against counseling kids about playing with matches because the cigarette lobby is worried how it might affect future sales?
Politically, you also have to wonder how smart it is to pass a law like this. Won't this law, and the politicians who passed it, be mentioned any time a child is killed or injured by a gun in Florida?