No photo for this post. You can imagine why.
I’m a little stunned by the news that a politician in Florida is trying to stifle pediatricians from asking questions about guns in the home. My reaction is utterly predictable. Should I YELL IT or write it down or leave it up to your genius (and imagination)?
The Skinny on the Florida Proposal:
- Florida Rep. Jason Brodeur said “he has heard about a number of cases in which doctors asked about guns. He thinks the topic should be off-limits.”
- Brodeur says he’s concerned about doctors asking patients about guns in the home. He’s concerned that information could get into the hands of the government or insurance companies.
- Under the proposed legislation, a doctor could face a fine of up to $5 million or be sent to prison for up to five years for asking about guns in the home.
The idea of blocking the right to advocate for children is preposterous. Clearly pediatricians don’t like censorship, particularly when it gets in the way of protecting the lives of children. We don’t even like censorship from our patients; we like it when adolescents tell us the truth about having sex, doing drugs, and self-tattooing. We like it when parents tell us what truly keeps them up at night. Really. Transparency and a lack of censorship is an imperative ingredient in the doctor-patient relationship. The exam room is a space and place where you’re not faulted for telling the truth.
When the door is shut in exam room #4, many laws protect the privacy of what you say and do. That’s one of the benefits behind all the pomp around seeing doctors and nurses in a private room. If we didn’t ask questions that were private, or didn’t demand privacy for our patients and their exams, we could do this all so much more efficiently. But then think conveyor-belt-style-medicine, group visits, long lines, and I suppose, smaller bills. I mean why not?
Because as doctors, we may not get the truth. As patients, we may not feel comfortable or cared for. Ultimately health would suffer.
Frankly, pediatricians should abhor censorship. Censorship cripples their ability to advocate for the health and safety of their patients who often lack a voice to protect themselves.
I’ve been reading about the bill for a week. At first I wasn’t going to write about it. It seemed stunningly stupid. Now I suppose what I really wonder is, what do you think?
Is it possible a large group of parents support this? Am I way off? I even suggest you should ask about guns before a play date.
Have you heard about this law? Is it possible my patients would prefer I didn’t ask about firearms? Haven’t you personally heard about children you know of getting shot (or shooting their mom) accidentally due to a misunderstanding about gun safety?
- The AAP states that someone’s child is killed by a gun in a homicide, a suicide, or as a result of an unintentional injury every 2 hours.
- 8 million children have access to firearms in the United States.
Shouldn’t we at least talk about this?
Please help me. Do you think there is an ounce of controversy in this bill? The proposal feels ludicrous. Am I wrong? Any Floridians reading this that have seen more media coverage? Does my upper-left-corner-of-the-US perspective leave me clueless?
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Just round down. (I’m aware it’s 561)
John G says
We should talk about gun safety. But not in a way any different from prescription drug safety, alcohol safety, recreational drug safety, fire safety, bath safety, etc. Just as many children have access to all of those things, and those things kill as many children (if not more) than guns do.
But i do agree that the law sounds pretty crazy.
The Florida legislature has a maddening obsession with weapons. A couple years ago, they passed a law that prevents any private company from prohibiting their employees from keeping guns in their cars on company land. So, not only can Congress make no law, but private citizens can have no such requirements either. I’m not surprised in the slightest that this bill is being put forward, and I’ll really be shocked if it doesn’t pass. I think it is horribly irresponsible, but that hasn’t stopped them before.
This law is crazy and only goes to show the narrow-mindedness of the National Rifle Association and the politicians it has in its pocket. They think that any act that even remotely hints at reducing the public’s access to guns is an afront to the people’s Second Amendment Constitutional right to bear arms – common sense and safety of children be damned. Unfortunately, it has a really good chance at passing because Florida’s legislature is dominated by Republicans like Mr. Brodeur (especially after last November) and its newly-elected governor is also a Republican.
Yes it should be talked about!! If there are guns in the home, all safety measures should be reiterated to make sure the owners are aware of everything they can do to protect their kids. The pediatrician is the logical place/person to do this, since they come into contact with families frequently.
Many of my relatives are gun owners, and this is a great reminder for me to ask next time we are at their house where and how the guns are stored. I never thought about asking, but that is very important, whether we are with our daughter in their home or not.
Laurie Miller says
My SC Ped always asked my kids from a very young age if there were guns in the home.
My daughter’s reply of YES startled him coming from a four or five year old. I let him know that we practice safety and there should be no concern. His reply was that he was not
worried about my kids, who grew up around hunting, he was worried about curious friends that may “Ask to see your Daddy’s Guns”. That had never occured to me and a gun safe was purchased that week. THIS question must be ASKED!!!
My child’s doctor has never asked that question (that I remember) but I think it is a perfectly reasonable question. “Do you own guns and now that you have a toddler do you have them safely secured where a curious toddler could not get them? If not, here are some resources on tips for gun safety and young children” How could that offend ANY parent? And if it does offend a parent then are they suited to be a parent?
I started teaching my daughter about gun safety when she was two years old – basically “If you have any question whether or not the gun is real or a toy get a trusted adult and LEAVE the premises immediately”.
It’s strange but here in my upper middle class neighborhood in Seattle some parents have been offended that I talk to my child about gun safety at all and have said they think I should not let my child even know about guns. But so many people own them – even here in my upper-middle class “liberal” neighborhood that I want my child to know how to be safe if she or a friend comes across one.
So, I am right there with you – it is CRAZY to ask a doctor not to talk to parents (especially new parents) about gun safety as much as any other safety issue.
By the way – kind of on the topic, this is an excellent gun safety video for young children:
It’s annoying to parents (much like Barney) but the tune sticks in kids’ heads and gets the point across.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
Thanks for all these comments. I’m more surprised now…can’t believe that others think this will pass. I simply can’t believe we’d let politicians get between doctors and patients in this way. Like anything about guns, I suppose this gets diluted down to partisan politics.
Take a peek at the post below, one doctor’s take that physicians should partner with the NRA
I think the law is astoundingly stupid. Laws that regulate speech are suspect at best. But I also think you can advocate without asking prying questions. If my ped asked about anything that didn’t pertain immediately to my health, I’d probably not answer. We get a sheet of precautions: gate at stairs, choking hazards, guns locked away, meds put out of reach, TV, etc. I’d be annoyed if those precautions or recommednations became a quiz instead and my child’s chart noted that we have a split level, take RX drugs, keep guns, and let her watch Dora while mommy takes a nap. The MA always asks if we want to discuss any of those points. They do ask if anyone in the home smokes and I think that’s more relevant.
Do you feel like these should all be active questions from Dr? Do you feel like you have to verbally state your position? We might have different boundaries about the dr / patient relationship.
I guess it’s because Will is only 2.5, but you’ve never asked us about guns in our home! 🙂
That being said, it wouldn’t bother me if you did and I would answer you honestly (yes, we do and yes, they are very well-secured). I would have no problems if a parent asked me the same question before coming over for a playdate or leaving their child in my care.
I do think that this issue goes deeper than partisan politics. Guns are a polarizing issue with many strong feelings on both sides. It’s kind of like vaccinations – talk about guns and you’re going to get into some serious discussions with lots of emotions. Then you mix in the facts (lack of gun safety and security equals injury and death) and you get people riled on both sides.
I agree with you that no subject should be “off the table” when discussing the health and well-being of children. And I think this law is pure silliness that hopefully won’t pass.
But the thing is, just playing devil’s advocate for a moment, suppose it did pass. It ultimately doesn’t change a provider’s discussion of guns with patients and their families. Because (unless I read it incorrectly) this law doesn’t say that you can’t talk about gun safety, you just can’t talk about gun ownership. And really, is ownership the concern, or education and safety? A child can live in a gun-free home, but not be educated about gun safety, and then go to a home where guns are present and that’s when the fatal error can occur. So, really, whether a family owns a gun or now isn’t the issue at hand. Talking about gun safety should be routine and not dependent on gun ownership.
Disclosure: I am a gun owner. There are quite a few guns in my home. I am also the father of an 8-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. My daughter has been taught gun safety, knows them as well as any experienced adult shooter, and shoots her own AR15 under supervision.
That said, I think the law is stupid. When my daughter’s pediatrician has asked the question, I politely but firmly told him, “Yes, but the exact number and where they are stored is none of your business.” If the question were asked directly of my daughter, whether in my presence or not, she knows to answer truthfully.
I have no problem with the question being asked. Frankly, there are quite a few homes out there where guns are left unsecured, and the children have access to them. Identifying those children in such environments, and directing parents and children to appropriate avenues of education on the subject, is beneficial.
But that’s where it ends. I’m not going to listen to a lecture on the evils of guns from a physician who has likely never shot one, and has no idea how to handle them safely.
Asking the question is a legitimate screening tool, but proselytizing crosses the line.
You Americans won’t be able to protect your children until you admit a simple fact: Americans are entertained by killing and gun violence. How else can you explain the obsession with guns and the gun murder rate 25 times any other country? I don’t care if you all want own a gun, but you need to admit and accept that some of those guns get in the wrong hands and are used to murder children. It’s a simple fact.
$5M seems pretty steep, and I don’t advocate legislating away anyone’s right to free speech, so it’s hard to support this.
The problem this is attempting to address is a real one, though. There are people working quite hard to repeal our right to have and bear arms. The story is that in Australia people first had to register their guns; once the government knew where all the guns were, it was a simple matter to go collect them. Now the same people who bankrolled Australia’s ban on guns are sinking their money into doing the same thing in the U.S.
It would be quite simple for congress to mandate that doctors report instances of gun ownership, and later use that information to confiscate all firearms. Some of us are pretty touchy about that.
It is simple to address gun safety without asking if there are guns in the home. Kids can come across guns at a friend’s house and should know what to do. Or perhaps you remember back when a school kid in Seattle found a gun in the bushes while walking to school? Kids need to know how to stay safe, and that can be addressed without asking if there are guns in the home.
Not at all surprising and a very sad indicator of our priorities. As someone on TV said last week, “The founding fathers would %&$# their pants if they saw what “guns” are nowadays.”
Proud American Who Doesn't Have A Fascination With Gun Violence says
Yes, David, guns can be dangerous when placed in the wrong hands. The people that I know who own guns are responsible with their firearms and I have not met one person who wouldn’t admit that guns can be used inappropriately. So, I guess we agree there.
Other than that, your comment left me confused. How does THIS law help with increasing gun safety and education for children? All that it would do was keep medical professionals from having open, honest, educational conversations with patients regarding proper gun handling and safety. That is what this post is about, not the argument for or against owning guns.
Lastly, your inflammatory statement about our gun murder rate being 25 times higher than any other country reminds me of a phrase I love toting out just for this occasion: 95% of statistics are made up on the spot. Please link to your references that will substantiate this “fact.” Because I didn’t know the statistics, but that just sounded wrong. A quick google search yielded the correct statistics.
Here is a link I found that quotes that the gun homicide rate is 2 to 4 times higher than other similarly eoconomically and socially developed countries. Countries with political unrest and still developing nations actually have higher gun homicide rates.
In case you are not a fan of wikipedia, may I also direct your attention to this website by the American Bar Association, where they discuss a gun homicide rate of 8 times higher that in countries of our economic counterparts.
Okay, but now we are splitting hairs. There is a higher rate of gun violence in the U.S. than in similary developed countries and that is a sad fact. But, as usual, talk about guns gets people throwing out all sorts of statististics from goodness knows where and I think we should stick to the facts.
In addition, your “fact” that Americans are fascinated with violence and guns is also not a FACT. Some Americans are, most aren’t. I’m an American and I am certainly not.
I am not really sure what the point of your statement here was, other than to be inflammatory. Let’s stick to the topic at hand – gun safety and protecting children and this incredibly stupid law that does nothing to promote either of those – shall we?
I’m a native Seattlite living in FL and have heard little about the law. However, I’m not surprised it is proposed, and I would imagine many people here would support it. I’ve met many, many people (all kind people who are friends of mine, btw) who greatly fear the ‘slippery slope’ (similar to Warmsocks comment). IMHO there is a much deeper distrust of government here in FL than there is in Seattle (all areas outside of King Co. are another story).
Personally I would not support the legislation. Additionally, I hope our Ped. would talk to us about guns in the home (he has not so far). Since it poses a real danger to my child’s life–than it is appropriate to discuss.
I don’t know if you heard but a VPK student (voluntary preschool–the state pays for all kids at age 4), was recently suspended from a school in Palatka, FL for bringing a LOADED GUN to school. He apparently found it in a vehicle belonging to his step-father. I would FLIP it this happened at my child’s preschool…
Anyway, no, I would not support the legislation. Yes, I would be willing to discuss guns in the home with our Pediatrician, and no, I don’t believe many others here (especially in the panhandle) would agree with me.
I grew up around guns, and gun safety was pounded into us. One thing my father told us that if you buy a gun to protect yourself, be prepared to take another person’s life. The reasoning was that one moment of hesitation could be fatal to yourself. So two of my siblings own guns (okay, one was an Army officer for twenty years), and the other two of us did not.
(aside: of course my father was the same daft man who left his elk hunting rifle on a couch that attracted the attention of my toddler son, he removed it very quickly, sigh)
Even still, with toy weapons (did you know Legos can be made in to guns?), I still instructed my children to be careful, plus assume a gun is loaded so never, ever, never point it at a person (or animal!).
Now, come a few years ago when my kids were bigger my silly husband decided to help his mother and take possession of his father’s rifle and ammo. His father died in 1967, so it had not been used in over thirty years.
I want it out of my house.
So I looked up how to do with firearms on the Seattle City website and got this:
So I called, and got put on hold and waited… and waited … and waited. So I gave up and found a contact form at the Police Department, and wrote a note explaining the situation. That was a week ago, and I am still waiting.
I think next week I’ll run an errand and stop by the police precinct and ask a live person.
Bryan Vartabedian says
What the legislators don’t understand is that guidance regarding firearms is a necessary part of well child care. We need to take ’em to school.
If we lived in a world of adults I could squint and half appreciate his argument.
Nice post. Emotion is good. We need to order up more of this.
Bryan Vartabedian says
Oh, and I love the whole 500 word thing.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
I know you do, Dr V. You are genius at creating short blog post with exceptional content and meaning. Your distillation of thought is phenomenal.
Will keep working on it. Would save me some time to shorten these up:) But then I’d have to leave some things out, too.
But then maybe the problem is time. This reminds me of a quote by Blaise Pascal that a colleague at Children’s mentioned to me the month I started this blog:
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
Kristina Donald says
As a parent and Florida resident I apologize for my silly state. I take my daughter to Florida Hospital for Children ( http://www.FloridaHospitalforChildren – which I highly recommend for any Florida moms)
Like some of the other posts mentioned, gun safety should be taken seriously and it should be talked about. At our next appointment, I’m going to go out of my way to mention something to the doctor about how seriously our family takes gun safety! Just like parents take that extra step to add child locks to things and put certain items high up for the tiny grabbers — guns too should be discussed and have a safety plan in place. Doctors deserve to know this information!!! If god forbid someone didnt ask and something happened….scoffffff… i couldnt imagine.
So again, I’m sorry from Florida! 🙁
— Kristina Donald
John G says
@Chris with the unwanted gun.
Take the rifle and ammo to a gun shop. Most (if not all) will at the very least dispose of ammo.
Depending on what the rifle is, and what condition it is, the gun shop might buy it from you, or might dispose of it for you. It may not be valuable to you, but it might be valuable to someone else.
Make sure the rifle is in a case, though, don’t just walk around with an open rifle. Especially near a police station. While “open carry” of guns is legal in WA, If you don’t know how to properly handle a gun, the way you are carrying it may come across as “brandishing”, which would be a very bad thing.
I liked your comment on parentdish. It’s depressing that someone in a political position of power is implying that gun owners might not get the same health care as someone who doesn’t own a gun. Doctors are really getting a bad rap these days. We ask questions about practically everything because we treat the whole patient and try to give pertinent advice to prevent illness and injury. It terrifies me that someone is trying to censor doctors. Is that same someone going to blame a doctor if something bad happens that the doctor could not have possibly predicted because he or she wasn’t allowed to ask a question? On the other site, I was so surprised to see that people felt it was only pertinent to ask if someone owned a gun if that person’s child came in with a gunshot wound. Wouldn’t that make the purpose of the question moot?
It is almost fifty years old and not been touched since 1967. Yeah, I don’t care about the gun shop, and I am sure they don’t want a box of 22 shells still in the mid-1960s Sears and Roebuck box.
The procedure is, as explained to me by a very nice police officer, is to go to the precinct. Leave everything in the car. Then inform the person at the desk (after they buzz you in) that you are getting rid of an old firearm. Then go and get it out of the car, hand it to the officer at the desk after he slides back the bullet proof glass. I did this yesterday.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
THANKS, Chris, for keeping us informed on what you did and how to dispose of a rifle and ammunition, at least here in Seattle. I had no idea about that service and will certainly spread the word when necessary.
I should mention that you can call the non-emergency number and talk to them about a particular circumstance, see the link I left earlier. Like if you find the ammunition looks dangerous, or if you find a stash of fireworks. Then they may come out to you. The problem is that you may wait a long time on the phone.