Doctors Being Encouraged to Ask Patients About Guns

When Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the nation’s next surgeon general, politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed dismay. This was a guy who had come out forcefully in favor of gun control, having labeled firearms as a “public health threat.” But while Dr. Murthy has promised not to use his position as a bully pulpit for politically-divisive topics, the Obama administration is already using the healthcare system to intrude on private gun ownership.

Dr. Mark Kestner of Murfreesboro, Tennessee recently wrote a starting op-ed in his local paper. In it, he threw the curtain back on the political manipulation physicians are being subjected to. If they want to be reimbursed fully through Medicare, they must now ask patients: “Do you keep loaded firearms in your home?” According to Dr. Kestner, the response may be noted and collected by the feds. Patients aren’t required to answer, but the mere fact that general practitioners are being compelled to ask is disturbing enough.

The practice of asking patients about their gun ownership is approved of by groups like the American College of Physicians, but 2nd Amendment advocates aren’t sure whether it’s really any of their business. Florida went so far as to draft a law – the Florida Privacy of Firearms Owners Act – that made it illegal for a doctor to ask their patients about firearms. That law was upheld in August by a U.S. Court of Appeals.

There is currently language in the Affordable Care Act that makes it clear that doctors do not have to ask their patients about guns. But if there are financial incentives to do so, doctors struggling to cover the costs of low-income patients will make an effort to comply with the wishes of the federal government. This is the kind of off-the-books coercion this administration is fond of. Obama can stay within his legal authority while still getting what he wants.

It would be nice if gun-rights proponents didn’t have to draft laws like the one in Florida. I do think there is room for responsible doctors – especially pediatricians – to make inquiries into gun ownership. Not everyone is aware of how to properly secure their firearms, and it makes a certain amount of sense for a doctor to at least share some tips.

On the other hand, we live in a time where the government simply can’t be trusted. If there weren’t constant attacks on our Second Amendment rights, this wouldn’t be an issue. But there are. At every turn, Democrats, liberal billionaires, and the Obama administration have looked for ways to restrict the right to bear arms. This isn’t a conspiracy theory; the proof is in Operation Choke Point, the proof is in Washington’s I-594 law, the proof is in the sweeping reforms the president tried to make after Sandy Hook. Not until we believe our gun rights are secure can we take a measured look at whether or not physicians should be asking about firearm ownership.

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