Why Are Gun Rights Groups Putting Guns Ahead of Children?


With the shooting attacks on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, as well as on law enforcement officers in Indiana, Florida, and Michigan, it’s hard to argue that one of America’s most pressing problems is not enough access to guns. Yet a proposed law in Florida would do just that, with a cruel bonus: it puts children at special risk of taking a bullet.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) is behind a bill that would make it a felony for a pediatrician to ask parents if there are guns in the house, and if so, how they are secured. If the doctor is found guilty of asking these questions, the penalty would be a $5 million fine and up to five years in prison.

Surely we have lost our minds.

A proposed Florida law would make it a felony punishable by a five-year prison sentence and a $5 million fine for pediatricians to ask parents if they lock up their guns

In a one-week period in my part of the state, close enough geographically for both stories to be reported by the same local news outlets, two children found guns that the adults who were responsible for them failed to secure. The first incident resulted in a 6-year-old girl shot in the chest.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, when officers first questioned Donnell Burney in the emergency room, he told them he was in front of the house when he heard the gunshot and saw his daughter outside the house holding her side.

According to the arrest report, Burney later told homicide investigators he was cleaning his handgun in the kitchen and left it on the counter when he went to another room.

In the second incident, a 5-year-old boy took a semiautomatic handgun to his preschool, where a teacher thankfully discovered it before someone was shot.

Assistant Palatka Police Chief James Griffith said officers were called to Moseley Elementary School after a teacher saw the gun fall from the youngster’s pocket during a pre-kindergarten music lesson Tuesday morning. The teacher retrieved the weapon and notified school administrators, who called police.

The .22-caliber Jimenez semiautomatic handgun was loaded with live ammunition in the magazine but no round in the chamber, Griffith said.

The child told police he found the weapon in a vehicle belonging to his stepfather, but investigators hadn’t confirmed that Tuesday night.

Marion Hammer, the NRA’s lobbyist in Tallahassee, argues it should be off limits for children’s doctors to address gun safety with parents, even though there are no penalties for, say, discussing how to secure poisons and household cleaners, or whether they use a child safety seat.

Hammer, executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida and a former national NRA president, said the gun rights groups have no opposition to a physician’s office handing out brochures on gun safety, but the direct questioning on whether there are guns in the home of a patient and how they store them goes too far.

“Simply, it’s none of their business,” Hammer said.

Assuming that keeping children safe and healthy is the very definition of a pediatrician’s business, pro-gun advocates make no sense.

Critics of the measure say…questions regarding gun ownership and how weapons are secured within homes is much like a pediatrician asking the parents of a child if their electric outlets have protective covers, or whether their pool is fenced in.

“No other area of physician inquiry has been deemed off-limits by the Legislature,” said Naples pediatrician Dr. Scott Needle. “Pediatricians have a right and a responsibility to ask appropriate questions as to a child’s safety and well-being, even if these questions might be uncomfortable to the parents; likewise, however, no parent can be legally compelled to answer such questions.”

When the NRA and Gun Owners of America defend the idea of unrestricted access to guns, it’s wrong to call for no responsibility on the part of the armed. The measure in Florida would leave parents with less ability to protect their children than good information could provide them. Since every day 75 children in America are shot and 15 of them don’t survive, why would anyone want to do that?


  • January 26, 2011 - 2:32 pm | Permalink

    The government has no business telling doctors what they are allowed to discuss with their patients. Reminds me of the gag rule that banned doctors from talking to their patients about abortion.
    If the NRA cares about gun safety they should welcome pediatricians reinforcing the message. Anyone who cares about children should want adults to be informed and accountable.

  • Cleanhippie
    January 26, 2011 - 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Not in agreement with the proposed law, but a doctor has no business asking that question, as it is not a health issue. Asking that would imply that owning a gun would put one more at risk and the data just does not support that at all. Its on the DOJ website, have a look for yourself.

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  • August 2, 2016 - 4:52 am | Permalink

    I think it is their children they are fighting for that is why they are so passionate about guns.

  • October 19, 2016 - 4:13 am | Permalink

    I also think talking about guns does not make you less good at your profession. It does not matter if you are a doctor or street sweeper.

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