Physicians have multiple roles. In addition to treating illness and injury, they have a public health duty to address risk factors in individuals and society that contribute to morbidity and mortality.
Responsible gun owners know how to behave around guns, including proper storage and use. In the same way that responsible parents use car seats and seat belts for their young passengers, responsible parents who are gun owners must secure their weapons to avoid accidental misuse.
A recent Slate article, “Pediatricians vs. the NRA,” demonstrates the ability of the NRA to successfully introduce legislation that suppresses a physicians ability to do their jobs and to exercise their free speech rights.
The “Privacy of Firearm Owners” law passed in Florida in 2011 prohibits doctors from “making written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient.”
Fortunately, the law is under attack and being challenged. Hopefully, it is also being ignored by many physicians who understand that there are bigger issues at play here – and that those who write such laws should be confronted with the obligation of enforcing it by trial and punishment. There are times when civil disobedience may be called for. This would appear to be one of them.