AAP disagrees with Florida bill restricting questions about firearms

May 20, 2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Florida Pediatric Society are expressing serious concerns over a new bill that limits the ability of physicians to ask counseling questions about guns in patients? homes without facing sanctions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Florida Pediatric Society are expressing serious concerns over a new bill that limits the ability of physicians to ask counseling questions about guns in patients’ homes without facing sanctions.

Florida recently passed legislation that restricts such anticipatory guidance during office visits. According to the “Medical privacy concerning firearms” bill (s 790.338 FS), health care practitioners and licensed health care facilities in the state are prohibited from “intentionally entering any disclosed information concerning firearm ownership into a patient’s health record if the information is not relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” Additionally, practitioners are mandated to respect patients’ right to own firearms and to refrain from harassing them about ownership during an examination.

Pediatricians usually are the first medical professionals to identify physical, safety, and mental health issues in children, adolescents, and young adults. Informational counseling allows them to partner with parents to keep children safe. However, Florida’s new bill makes it illegal for pediatricians there to discuss firearms in the home with patients and parents and mandates disciplinary action and fines for doing so.

The AAP views guns in the home as a threat for serious injury, death, and even suicide in young people if the weapons are stored loaded or unlocked. Simple conversations with parents about safe practices in a child’s everyday environment, including swimming pools, household chemicals, prescription and over-the-counter medications, firearms, and others, may help to prevent unintentional injury, which the AAP says is the leading cause of death in children older than 1 year.

Because the physician-patient relationship is confidential, the AAP views the restrictive bill as a “government intrusion” that violates professional physician standards and needlessly threatens the well-being of pediatric patients.

The AAP is calling for Florida’s governor to veto the bill and urges other states to reject such legislation outright.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Florida gun legislation will hinder pediatricians’ efforts to protect children [news release]. Chicago, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; April 28, 2011.

Florida Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittee. CS/CS/HB 155-Privacy of firearm owners. www.flsenate.gov/committees/billsummaries/2011/html/0155CJ. Accessed May 19, 2011.