[Ed: Dr. Edeen delivered this address (as “Education not Intimidation”) at Florida Carry’s 3rd Annual Camping Event at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, Florida on February 8, 2020. We hope to obtain video and post it on our DRGO YouTube channel, too. Slightly edited for clarity.]
What do you do when your doctor asks if you own a gun?
You are at the pediatrician’s office for a routine well child visit. Maybe you just moved to a new town. The nurse hands you the standard paperwork with the questionnaire pertaining to your child’s health. You start filling out the form and right there . . . question number 14 . . . “Do you have a gun in the home?” It’s right after the question about swimming pools and right before the one about household cleaner storage. What do you answer?
First, the presence of this question is no accident. In the 1980s and 1990s professional medical organizations declared a culture war on gun ownership. This includes the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatricians.
The incoming AMA president in 2001 stated, “What we don’t know about violence and guns is killing us…researchers do not have the data to tell how kids get guns, if trigger locks work, what the warning signs of violence in schools and at the workplace are and other critical questions due to the lack of research funding”.
The AAP’s 2012 position statement is typical. It advocates removing guns from homes and communities. It advocates for the strictest possible legislative and regulatory approach to prevent firearms injuries and deaths. It recommends counseling patients about the dangers of allowing children and adolescents access to guns in and out of the home. It advocates for safe storage and gun locks but preferentially recommends complete removal of firearms from the home.
They state that the presence of firearms in the home increases the risk of lethal suicidal acts among adolescents. They advise counseling parents to remove or restrict access to guns, especially when children with mood disorders, substance abuse or prior suicide attempts reside in the home. They further advocate consumer product regulation regarding child access, “safety” and firearm design. They also advocate that law enforcement track legally owned firearms.
They further push for regulations aimed at illegal sales to minors. They claim that evidence supports the effectiveness of regulation of firearms that limit the access to children. They also want decreased destructive power of handguns and ammunition, “smart gun” technology and safe storage. They encourage legislative actions including waiting periods, closure of the “gun show loophole”, mental health restrictions and background checks. They also want the “assault weapons” ban restored. The AAP is pushing for the funding of research aimed at prevention of firearms injury. They also encourage the education of physician and professionals interested in the effects of firearms and how to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with their use.
It is important to note that the establishment public health and medical communities fail to account for the up to 2.4 million defensive gun uses annually. They also inflate the number of “gun violence” deaths by 200% by including suicide by firearms. They typically ignore the research of the criminologist and economist community. Also, much of what the AAP is asking for is already law. Unfortunately, the medical community will be unable to answer the question of “gun violence”. Their focus is on the gun and not the violent actor. They can urge passage of all kinds of restrictions and laws that affect law-abiding citizens, but they are naïve to think that the criminals will obey their laws and obtain firearms via supervised legal channels. Thus, the aim of gun control is not the gun but control.
The AMA, ACP and AAP have aggressively campaigned for doctors to advise patients to get rid of guns. We must understand some very important facts:
- Doctors receive absolutely no training about firearms safety, mechanics or tactics in medical school or residency.
- Gun ownership is a civil right. A doctor’s abuse of his position of trust to pressure you to give up that civil right is professionally and morally wrong. You DO NOT have to tolerate it.
- As a consumer, you have great power in the physician-patient relationship. USE IT.
This type of unprofessional behavior by some physicians led to Florida’s Firearm Owners Privacy Act in 2011. This law was enacted to stop physicians from misusing their position to push a political agenda. This abuse of authority is called an “ethical boundary violation”.
- The 2011 FOPA forbade physicians from pressing patients to give up their firearms or otherwise propagandizing using the doctor-patient relationship.
- It precluded routine documentation of firearm ownership.
- It did not preclude inquiring when relevant to patient care, safety concerns or unstable person’s access.
- It did not forbid doctors to provide general information.
Unfortunately, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court overturned the law in February 2016. The only provision upheld was that gun owners cannot be treated differently simply because they are gun owners. Also, no patient can be turned away when seeking medical care because the doctor does not approve of his answers to gun ownership questions.
In response to this, David Codrea, in his February 22, 2017, Ammoland article, “Pro-Gun Owner Physicians Decry ‘Docs vs. Glocks’ Ruling” introduced us to his Firearms Safety Counseling Representation: Physician Qualifications and Liability Form. The form was developed in collaboration with the late Joe Horn, LA County Sheriff’s office, Retired, Risk Management Specialist.
In Part One: Qualifications, it asks physicians to list their specific courses of study and certification/accreditation for giving firearms safety advice in the home. It asks physicians to certify that they have reviewed the applicable scientific literature pertaining to defensive gun use and beneficial results of private gun ownership. They are also asked whether they have reviewed other relevant home safety issues with the patient including: electricity, drains, disposals, compactors, garage doors, driveway safety, gas, broken glass, stored cleaning chemicals, buckets, toilets, sharp objects, garden tools, home tools, power tools, lawn mowers, lawn chemicals, scissors, needles, forks, knives, etc.
The doctor is then asked to state:
“I represent that I have sufficient data and expertise to provide expert and clinically sound advice to patients regarding firearms in the home.
I am knowingly engaging in home/firearms safety counseling without certification, license or formal training in Risk Management, and have NOT reviewed applicable scientific literature pertaining to defensive gun use and beneficial results of private firearms ownership.”
Part II: Liability asks physicians to document whether their malpractice insurance covers such counseling and to accept liability for any injury or death that results from patient following their advice. A “Yes” to either question is highly unlikely.
DRGO’s advice is as follows:
- Politely refuse to answer the question.
- If the question appears on your health plan questionnaire, file a formal complaint with the health plan.
- If the heath plan responds with the excuse that their questions about your guns are standard medical practice that they must follow, file a complaint with the state agency that regulates health plans.
- If the doctor persists in asking intrusive questions about guns in your home, you can file a complaint against him or her with the health plan.
- You can rate the physician on an internet rating site such as Yelp.com, Healthgrades.com etc.
- Medicare and insurance companies will often tie reimbursement rates with patient satisfaction surveys. You may have an impact if you report the unethical behavior regarding your guns to the payor.
- If the conduct is especially offensive, you can submit a complaint to the State Medical Board for an ethical boundary violation. This is a serious accusation and will be addressed by the Medical Board.
However, I have some advice myself as well:
- You can choose to lie or shade the truth. “I don’t own ‘a’ gun”, Tom Gresham of Gun Talk radio has said numerous times. “It is not a sin to lie to somebody who doesn’t have the right to know the truth.” Remember, in the age of electronic medical records, the government and who knows who else have access to your records. They can and eventually will be used as a backdoor gun registry.
- Have David Codrea and Joe Horn’s Liability Questionnaire handy when you go for a medical appointment.
- You have the option to fire the doctor and seek care elsewhere. DRGO has a matching service for helping find Second Amendment friendly providers. It is called 2Adoc.com and is free and confidential.
- You can report the anti-gun zealots to their State Medical Boards for their Ethical Boundary Violations.
- Please visit DRGO.us to find more resources regarding this and other Second Amendment related medical topics.
—Dr. John Edeen is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in San Antonio, TX and is active in seeking the right to carry for qualified hospital staff. He is DRGO’s Membership Director.