Imagine that your 16-year-old daughter has been bullied mercilessly in school, but hasn’t talked to you about it, or spoken about her suicidal impulses. One day, she is brought by ambulance to your local hospital emergency room, having made superficial cuts on her arms while in school. The emergency room physician tries to call you at work, but your cell phone isn’t picking up. The doctor begins her evaluation of your daughter, including an assessment of all relevant risk factors for suicide. Now imagine that the doctor believes she is forbidden by law from asking your daughter whether there are guns in your home — despite the fact that firearms in the home markedly increase the risk of gun-related suicide.1
You needn’t use much imagination. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill (SB-432) that will prohibit doctors from asking patients if they own guns, except when “…the information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety or the safety of others…”
The Florida bill was written with the help of — no surprise here — the National Rifle Association, which insists that this legislation is designed to prevent doctors from intruding on a patient’s privacy; “harassing” gun owners; and interfering with the patient’s second amendment “right to bear arms.” Similar bills are being considered in North Carolina and Alabama.
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