Here’s good news. Let’s recognize and celebrate good news when it happens.
In another national win courtesy of our judicial branch, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just restored the right of physicians in Florida (and America, by extension – hopefully) to discuss guns with patients. As any family physician can tell you, part of a regular wellness interview includes a review of basic safety issues. This can include questions like ‘do you wear safety belts?’ ‘do you ride motorcycles?’ and others which then lead to a targeted discussion of how to reduce health risks. For instance, if a person does not ride motorcycles, there is no need to discuss wearing helmets. With elder patients, this may include questions like ‘do you have small area rugs in your home?’ Let’s take a moment and realize that none of this in any way reflects aggression or bias from physicians against seat belt manufacturers, auto makers, motorcycle companies, or producers of area rugs. Right?
There are other questions included in general safety conversations when working with families. Parents are asked if there is a swimming pool at the home. Parents are asked if there are guns in the home. This is because, like the motorcycles example above, if there is no swimming pool and there are no guns in the home, then that is all. If, on the other hand, there is a swimming pool, specific safety measures are worth discussing to prevent accidental drownings. If are guns in the home, it is worth spending a few moments discussing with these parents how to ensure there are locks and other safeguards to prevent children from inadvertent risk in the home.
Florida lawmakers in 2011 tried to outlaw these wellness discussions by banning questions about guns in the home from a physician’s repertoire of safety questions posed to parents in the office.
Gun violence is not actually well documented in our country, which is no accident.
From Slate.com in 2013: Gun violence is a public health issue. And the NRA has been disturbingly influential in public health policy. Since the 1990s, it has suppressed research in gun violence by targeting the sources of funding. In 1996, pro-gun members of Congress tried to eliminate the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. They failed in getting rid of the center, but the House of Representatives cut $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—the exact amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year.
Finally, after a protracted set of appeals, today the court upheld that the “free speech” right of physicians to interview patients is more germane to this issue than the 2nd Amendment, let alone the imagined rights of the national rifle association to prevent Americans from discussing potential risks of gun violence, even in the context of trying to prevent harm to our children.
This is a win. Celebrate. Be grateful. And keep at it. #resist