New Gun Law in Florida Might Land Me in Jail!
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An anticipated new Gun Law in Florida might just land me in jail! While it is presently setting its sights on medical doctors, particularly pediatricians, it’s only a matter of time before other child specialists, like myself, will be targeted, as well.
A law passed by the Florida legislature and likely to be signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott would make it a crime for doctors to counsel parents about gun safety in the home.
In her May 6 column, Yahoo! News Staff Writer Rachael Rettnew reported comments by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a pediatrician in Tallahassee, Fla., and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society. “We feel that physicians will be reluctant to ask about guns in the home as a result of this legislation. As a result we expect that, unfortunately, there will be an increase in injury and death of children and adolescents due to improperly stored guns,” said Dr. St. Petery.
Supporters of the new Gun Law in Florida, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), say they want to stop doctors from invading their privacy, and are concerned the information may be used against them by insurance companies. Similar legislation has been proposed in Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina.
Dr. St. Petery is a gun owner who believes it is vital for doctors to be able to ask about gun safety in the home.
“Injury prevention is a standard of pediatric health care at every well-child visit, starting in infancy,” said Lisa Cosgrove, MD, president of the Florida AAP chapter. “Discovering potential risks, such as the presence of a gun in the home, and providing education on how to prevent injury is central to the practice of pediatric medicine.”
But Marion Hammer, former National Rifle Assn. president and executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the NRA’s state legislative affiliate, said the AAP has been critical of gun ownership for years. “Families take their kids to pediatricians for medical care, not to talk about guns,” she said.
If the new Gun Law in Florida passes, parents could report doctors who inquire about gun ownership to the Florida State Medical Board. The board can then impose disciplinary action, which may go as far as taking away the doctor’s license to practice medicine. As a compromise, doctors can ask about gun ownership if they think the child is in imminent danger. But pediatricians say this wording is subject to interpretation, and they object to being penalized for doing something they believe to be in the best interest of the child.
“I would think there should be a law that says if you don’t [council parents about gun safety], that should be malpractice,” said David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health who studies injury prevention.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill someone known to the family than it is to kill someone in self-defense. Furthermore, states with the most guns at home have suicide rates double rates of states with the fewest guns, and those suicides are often children. Children over age 14 are at greater risk for suicide if they have access to guns, studies have shown.
Studies overwhelmingly show that, for the average family, it is better for the health of the children if a gun is not kept in the home, Hemenway said. This is also the position of the AAP.
But if you do own a gun in a household with children, here are steps to protect children, according to the AAP:
• The gun should be locked up.
• The gun should not be loaded.
• The ammunition should never be stored with the gun, and should be locked up.
• Keys to locked boxes should be hidden.
Parents should also find out if there are guns at the houses where their children play. If so, parents should have a conversation with the gun owners to make sure they properly store their guns, the AAP says.
As for me, I am committed to keeping kids safe. Finding out if there are guns in the home can be just as important to know when dealing with curious toddlers, acting out kids or suicidal/homicidal teens. I will continue asking the questions necessary to keep my kids safe…in spite of the new Gun Law in Florida!
What do you think about this new development?