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How the NRA Treats Gun Owners Like Children

| August 9, 2014

All Glocks, no docs. (Brent  Danley)

All Glocks, no docs. (Brent Danley)

By Adam Weinstein

I’ve been trying to catch up with Marion Hammer, the former president of the NRA and top lobbyist for the pro-gun group here in Florida, for years.

I’m a lifelong gun owner, but she’s never accepted my offers to meet up for a range day. So I was glad to see she’s writing at Context Florida now. I’d like to take a minute to chat with Hammer about her post last week praising the state’s recent “Docs vs. Glocks” law.


Marion, as a big believer in constitutional rights, I’d imagine you’re as much a fan of the First Amendment as you are of the Second. Yet your lobbying helped pass a law that makes doctors criminals for exercising their speech rights: in this case, inquiring about the presence of firearms in a patient’s home.

You argue that there’s only one reason for this to come up in an exam room: a “political agenda” by doctors “to ban guns.” You cite some strong anti-gun stuff that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has put out. Fair enough, although I don’t go to a pediatrician for my physicals, and I don’t know a lot of kids with guns.

context floridaDoes the AAP appear to have a political agenda? Sure. And I don’t agree with it. But I can’t argue with the public-health premise that led to their conclusion: Multiple studies over decades have shown that your statistical risk of dying by gunshot increases dramatically when you possess a gun in your home. So does your spouse’s risk. So does your child’s. Men who own guns are 400 percent likelier to commit suicide than unarmed men.

You take issue with these studies, even the recent ones and the ones that control for a lot of variables. We could gather more statistical data to see if the docs’ studies bear out, but federal agencies have been barred from collecting data or performing research on firearm injuries, thanks to some laws you and the NRA helped push through Congress in the 1990s. (Speaking of political agendas!)

We trust our medical professionals with scads of deeply personal information. And we already answer lots of doctors’ invasive questions with health implications — questions like “Are you having unprotected sex?” “Do you smoke?” “Going through any stress at home or work lately?” “Have you had an abortion or miscarriage?” “Do you drink to excess or take drugs?”

Depending on our reactions to these questions, our doctors lay some knowledge on us about the risks of such behavior. I can’t imagine who doesn’t know that unprotected sex comes with a lot of risks, but confronted with the data, maybe some people are a little more circumspect about their choices.

Maybe the same thing happens with guns. Not necessarily that people make their houses gun-free in response to a doctor’s recommendation, but that they take greater safety precautions, get gun locks. Heck, maybe they even get some training from an NRA-certified shooting instructor, or sign their kids up for an NRA Eddie Eagle gun safety course.

As I said, Marion, I’m a gun owner, and I’m sensitive to your concerns. It’s never easy talking about these personal matters with a white-coated stranger. But rather than clamp down on that eminently qualified stranger’s freedom to inform you of the hazards that accompany your choices, you should do what the rest of us have always done when confronted with these questions: Lie.

Say you don’t own a gun, never smoke, and always drink in moderation. You’re going to get the same lecture on health either way. Even after the lectures, lots of people still smoke. And lots of people will still keep and bear arms.

Maybe you should give those arms-bearers more credit for their ability to hear the risks that come with their choices. Gun owners aren’t children. Even a pediatrician knows that.

Adam Weinstein is a Tallahassee-based senior writer for Gawker. He has worked for the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and Mother Jones.

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24 Responses for “How the NRA Treats Gun Owners Like Children”

  1. Ken Dodge says:

    “Multiple studies over decades have shown that your statistical risk of dying by gunshot increases dramatically when you possess a gun in your home. So does your spouse’s risk. So does your child’s. Men who own guns are 400 percent likelier to commit suicide than unarmed men.”

    And multiple statistical studies over decades have shown ever increasing opportunities for statisticians.
    But seriously, that is why responsible gun owners buy gun safes and secure storage boxes.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      And statistically nobody has ever been killed by a gun left in a safe or secure storage box, but that’s not the point here.

      I grew up hunting more than most. I remember taking my Winchester 1894 30-30 carbine Trappers Model with the 16and 1/4 inch octagon barrel to my 7th grade shop class to refinish the stock. And showing everybody the newfangled nylon-tipped bullets my Dad brought back from Canada on his Moose hunting trip at the same time. In the 8th grade I did the same refinishing on his WWII M-1 Gerand.
      For my 12th birthday, my Grandpa got me a lifetime membership to the NRA. I loved getting the American Rifleman magazine every month for the historical articles of all the guns I’d ever heard of as well as the debates on the best powder load for each grain bullet for every gun ever made. And I treasured it as much as any so-called gun nut ever just for the… I don’t know. The technical artistry, arcane formulas regarding the science of ballistics that were precise right down to the altitude and humidity. Whatever the attraction, I understand the fascination more than most. These are my Bone-Fides.

      But I went out of my way to cancel my membership when Wayne LaPierre backed out of of the organizations original statement after the Waco siege. They initially called the FBI, Delta Force and ATF assault of the compound that deliberately burned dozens of men, women and children alive the work of “Jack-Booted Thugs”, and rightfully so. But after the gun industry and their Wall Street investors objected, they folded and backed the Governments party line. That proved to me that their only consideration was the investors and bankers of the American Weapons Industry. And a hunter like me had no more business supporting them than I should support OPEC because I put gas in my car every week. So I reluctantly told them to shove my membership in their variable calibre orifice.

      The law says that a Doctor must question his patient regarding his habits and lifestyle choices. To include guns in the home in my opinion is idiotic, but not indefensible. What all of you studs posting your outrage here should think about is if you are being played by the best propaganda operation in history, even a little bit, or not. Because I beleive the agenda of the NRA is not in the best interest of the American people. And that includes you and your family. And I beleive I am on-target here to the 10 ring, and would be glad for you to convince me otherwise.

      • ryan says:

        David Kuresh should not have endangered all of those people and the people with kids should have turned their kids over to the police instead of keeping them inside. Kuresh was converting guns to full auto and was running a cult as well as molesting children.

  2. just saying says:

    Would you ask your local grocery store stock boy about parliamentary procedure?
    Would you ask your butcher to replace the cam in your car?
    Would you ask your Dentist to repave your drive way?

    Would you ask your doctor about safe firearms handling? Unless your doctor has some form of firearms trainer training, I would advise against it. You can’t take a doctor as a firearms expert anymore than you can trust your waitress for information on the judicial process.

    • just saying says:

      Now in a sub thought:
      If Medical school included a full firearms training along the lines of any branch of the US military it would be a start. I’d also think that requiring firearms qualifications and training the equivalent of law enforcement would help to garner confidence that the doctor has the training and experience to speak about firearms in a professional capacity.

  3. Outsider says:

    Could it be that the doctors would be treating us like children if we answered the question “yes?” They would tell us that we need to keep the guns away from children, store them in a safe, or use a trigger lock. Duh. The real issue is that your response would become part of your medical record, which is required to be in electronic format, and in many instances, accessible by the government. And therein is your back door gun registration program Obama and his cohorts so desperately want. Just as he wanted a “national police force as strong as the military,” which he got by going around congress and armed every social security, TSA, DHS, and multiple other agencies to the teeth. Sorry, we just don’t trust this government.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      But you’d feel a lot better about it if it was President Romney?

      • Outsider says:

        Not really, because the information will be in the government’s hand from now until eternity, (well, assuming this country is going to be around that long is quite a reach) during which time I’m sure there will be a multitude of changes in leadership, some good some bad. I’m not going to review all of the abuses of power this president has committed, but I will remind you the entire Supreme Court agreed he went too far and it’s reasonable to assume he will keep testing the limits, to the detriment of our freedoms, or what’s left of them.

  4. Lt. Dan says:

    Perhaps its time for Americans to keep their business to themselves. DO NOT offer any extra information to doctors, police, insurance agents, government agencies, etc. I’m sick and tired of this invasion of my privacy. Don’t FEED the monster !!!!

  5. Anon says:

    I totally agree with the statement made in this article. The doctor’s right to ask has a correlation to the mental health of the individual. The health profession has no obligation to provide any private information to anyone except when life is at risk. What motivation does the NRA have to make people less safe? Never mind the fact that they claim they are nullifying the overreaching government based on an amendment that is literally secondary to the one being infringed upon.

  6. rickg says:

    Perhaps the doctors were concerned about the environment of children and the dangers of parental gun ownership when the owner is neglectful or untrained. Does the NRA advocate gun ownership and usage without the proper training??? The NRA needs to get a life and go back to its roots.

  7. Sam Hill says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t a patient \ doctor conversation privileged and can’t even be broken by warrant. So who going to find out what was said? The Doctor speaks I sue, I speak I idiot. Something else I’d like to address, gun safes. I guess it depends on why you purchased your firearms and the type. I bought two semi-automatic pistols for protection of my family. Putting locks or putting them in a safe defeats that purpose, could have saved money and left them at the gun shop. When I raised my 4 children the first thing they were taught is we were parents not waiters or service people, the second thing they were taught was not to touch anything that was not personally theirs, no matter how tempting. Those two rules and lessons made raising them a pleasure.

  8. Steve Boyd says:

    Not all risky behaviors are within a doctor’s purview. I think that there is a fundamental difference between “illness” and “injury.” Illness is definitely in the doctor’s domain – routine questions about tobacco and alcohol as part of a generic medical history questionnaire are appropriate because their use can lead to illness. Risks of accidental injury are a different matter altogether. Once they step into the realm of accidental injuries, doctors might also ask everyone if they own a circular saw, if they own a ladder, if they own a motorcycle… the list is endless. These things that increase the risk of accidental injury are a matter between me and my insurance agent, not my doctor. Of course, once an accidental injury occurs, it is appropriate for a doctor to ask how it occured, in order to properly assess and treat the injury (e.g. “How did you cut off your finger?”). That’s not the same as routinely asking everyone if they own a knife.

  9. Fleek Weebnut says:

    I’ve raised four children. No doctor ever asked me if I had a pool, or what chemicals I had under my sink. Children’s accidental death by gunfire doesn’t even come close to the deaths by drowning and deaths by poisoning.

  10. A.S.F. says:

    I work in the mental health field. Here are some examples where a Health professional might be able to save a life simply by asking about the accessibility of guns in a given situation. Situations where there are known risk factors such as serious mental illness, especially one that has yet to be optimally controlled or where there is a known family member who has a habit of not taking his or her medication as prescribed. Situations where there is an active drug/alcohol addiction. Health professionals are all mandated reporters where abuse is suspected. If a health professional suspects abuse through a pattern of injuries, it would make sense to not only report it but to ask about the accessibility of weapons in the home. This is just a normal part of trying to determine the level of lethality in any situation. Including situations where there may be an incipient (or progressing) dementia. If a doctor is responsible for asking about the accessibility of car keys, why should his/her hands be tied when it comes to guns? I have often heard NRA backers and second amendments defenders talk about how it is “the person, not the weapon” that should be at issue, especially where mental illness is concerned. But if a doctor cannot even ASK whether a gun is in the picture, how are we supposed to be protected from such individuals? It only takes a split second for unspeakable tragedy to happen.

    • Sam Hill says:

      I replying to you, because you asked a question easily answered. You should know that as.ume means a..u…an…me. But, in the instances you alluded to one must asume the worst, and act accordingly. To error is human just always error on the safe side.

    • Outsider says:

      There is no doubt there could be a situation where the information is relevant; my contention is that the government can’t be trusted with the wholesale collection of certain information and then use it as intended. For example, if you are a politically active conservative, this information could be used negatively in processing a tax exempt application. Or, if you announce publicly that you are a conservative and are against the current government’s policies, that information may be used to target you for an IRS audit. Suppose a president declares he desires a “national police force as strong as the military,” and then circumvents congress and unilaterally creates that force by arming every federal law enforcement agent to the teeth, including social security administration agents and those assigned to investigate Medicare fraud. Couple recent events where the above-mentioned actions actually occurred with regularity, how can anyone expect citizens to reveal information affecting their constitutional rights to a government with a penchant for abuse?

  11. Chris says:

    More anti-gun drivel from a “bloomberg” gun owner. This whole charade of “I believe in the Second Amendment but …. Gun Control” is getting really tired. You are being paid to write this nonsense. It is propaganda and we see right through it.

    The majority of American citizens are not going to give up their rights. This whole propaganda campaign is designed to disarm citizens, give government more power, and take away rights of citizens in the name of
    government safety. Look around the world. Governments are killing more people than anyone.

    Democrats = Gun Control = Registration = Confiscation. Your vote counts. Use it wisely.

  12. Transvaluation says:

    Let’s follow this logic.

    The Government through the ACA is forcing all Doctors and clinics to store and supply patient records electronically through decreased payments for non-compliance.

    It is illegal for the Gov’t to create a national registry.

    Get the Doctors to ask about firearm ownership through political activism and enter that information into the electronic patient records which are accessible by the Gov’t, and you now have a Registry.

    There is nothing wrong with a doctor handing out a stack of pamphlets regarding safety, like safety belts, child seats, proper child gates, chemicals under the sink, bike helmets, and safe gun storage. But asking the question within the examination room about something that has no correlation to health and disease is an infringement.

  13. Diana L says:

    The NRA concern is selling more guns so they can exist with payoffs from the gun manufacturers.
    Drs concern is keeping their patients from being maimed or killed by gunshots.
    Who has their priorities on straight?
    If a Dr wants to ask about guns in the home to keep her/ his patient safe , who is a State legislature to tell them they can’t?
    Guns, baby, guns, is a rallying cry for the paranoid whack a nuts that fear their own shadows.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    Doctors are forced (many reluctantly) to report people who have had seizures to the MVA because of the danger they MIGHT pose to themselves and/or public safety while driving. But, by all means, Doctors shouldn’t even be able to inquire about gun ownership in relationship to an individual who might pose a threat to self or others. American idiocy as its finest.

  15. teebonicus says:

    Unless firearms are directly related to a medical condition or treatment, doctors have no business interrogating their patients about affairs that aren’t medical in nature.

    The issue grew legs when a Florida doctor refused treatment to a patient who declined to answer any questions about his ostensible private gun ownership.

    The elephant in the room is that doctors are proselytizing the progressive political meme on private firearms ownership, which is to say, they attack private gun ownership with ideological zeal. Besides the rude intrusion into matters that don’t concern them, they gather that information to include it in the patient’s medical records.

    Doctors should stick to medicine and not engage in Alinskyesque social meddling.

    They may have a right to ask, but we have a right to tell them it’s none of their business without fearing repercussions or retaliation.

  16. A.S.F. says:

    A part of a doctor’ job (a good doctor, that is–one who really cares about the welfare of his patients) is to determine the level of lethality and danger in a patient’s given situation. That might include asking personal questions that might make patients feel uncomfortable at times. An example of this might be asking a patient who shows physical signs of alcohol abuse about his or her use of alcohol. It isn’t that alcohol is illegal and it isn’t because doctors are trying to be nosy for no reason. But asking is a way to open the door to possible necessary interventions as well as to protect the patient and others around him (such as family members) from present and/or future dangers. It’s the same with guns. If a patient shows signs of Depression and/or instability or might be displaying organic problems (such as a Dementia process), it only makes sense to remove dangers from his/her immediate environment and send him /her on for a more thorough evaluation. I am sick of NRA defenders who blather about how mental illness should be more properly screened (as though it can be accomplished and treated in five minutes) and simultaneously insist on tying the hands of Doctors who are only trying to make things safer for all of us.

  17. A.S.F. says:

    …And the NRA should not be deciding what constitutes “medical necessity” in terms of what a doctor should or should not be asking, or talking to, his/her patients about.

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