When I was raising my kids, my pediatrician talked to me a lot about safety issues: having the proper car seat, “childproofing” my house, having CO2 and smoke detectors. He also asked if there was a gun in the home (there was not) and whether it was safely stored.
Yet, reports the Boston Globe, Florida lawmakers recently passed a “gag law” prohibiting doctors from asking patients whether they have a gun in the home. Six other U.S. states have introduced similar bills. The National Rifle Association, which supports the bill, says it is an invasion of privacy. A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction, saying it violates Constitutional free-speech protections. A group of physicians from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard researchers are so concerned that they have put together a paper “Attempts to Silence Firearm Injuries” in the latest issue of the the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Numerous studies have linked the presence of a gun in the home with higher risks of suicide,* homicide and injury, but the authors note that the Centers for Disease Control will not fund firearms related-research because it could be used to lobby Congress on the matter. Similar research, such as those on tobacco, alcohol, obesity can potentially be used for political lobbying, but only gun-related research has this restriction.
What is at stake in this debate?
*More than half of all suicides are fırearm-related, and adolescent suicide rates are four to ten times higher in households with a gun. Source: Maris RW. Suicide. Lancet 2002; 360:319 –26.