Doctors and Guns

A battle of constitutionally protected rights is headed to a federal appeals court. Last month a judge in Miami ruled doctors have a first amendment right to ask patients if they exercise their second amendment. Governor Rick Scott is appealing the ruling. The case is pitting two power lobbies, guns and doctors, against each other.

Dr. Louis St. Petery never stopped asking his patients if there were guns in the home, even though a 2011 law banned the practice. “The typical thing that happens is a small child finds a loaded handgun in a bedside table drawer and shoots a sibling.”

Dr. St. Petery is an officer in one of three medical associations that sued to overturn the law and won. “Our issue was a first amendment issue, our right to talk with our patients regarding the proper storage and handling of firearms.”

This week Governor Rick Scott announced, he’s appealing the decision.

The case pits the first amendment against the second amendment and the medical lobby against the NRA.

Former NRA president Marion Hammer says some doctors are trying to force their political views on their patients. “Once you tell them you own guns, they council you to get rid of your guns.”

When doctors get the information about gun ownership, it’s shared with health insurance companies. Hammer fears the insurance companies are building a list to share with the government.

“Government has access to your medical records and your doctor puts in your medical records that you own guns, it can be filter and become a de facto form of registration.”

Doctors say if children are in homes with guns they need to know, so they can distribute safety information. The NRA says the responsibility is on the gun owner and responsible parents already know how to keep weapons away from children.

Dr. St. Petery says even though gun information is shared with insurance companies, federal HIPAA laws prevent unauthorized access to the information.