The Woodward News of Woodward, OK, is now running a series of articles based on the ”research” of their staff writer, Rachel Van Horn, as to why physicians are asking patients about gun ownership. The problem arose in Woodward when a town resident was asked about gun ownership during a routine intake interview conducted before her physical exam. Of course in this cattle town of 12,000 people it would be difficult to find someone who didn’t own a gun, nevertheless, the patient felt her privacy had been invaded, thus leading to the effort by the News to figure out what’s going on.
The issue of physicians and guns just doesn’t seem to want to go away, largely because physicians are becoming more assertive in voicing their concerns about guns, while the gun industry continues its efforts to convince gun owners that the medical establishment is the implacable foe of 2nd Amendment rights. It’s now routine that every medical society issues a statement deploring gun violence, while the NRA continues its efforts first realized in Florida, the Gunshine State, to prevent physicians from talking to patients about guns.
Given this background, Ms. Van Horn stepped boldly into the controversy, hoping to discover the actual “origins” of the question of gun ownership which now appears routinely on medical questionnaires from Woodard, OK to Washington, D.C. and back again to Woodward. First she learned that the question is now listed on the various Electronic Medical Records (EMR) intake forms used by most clinicians in the United States. But none of the companies that produce EMR software would respond to Ms. Van Horn’s requests for information so that was a dead end. Then she went after the Medicaid and Medicare folks, figuring this might lead her to the nation’s Number One gun-grabber, a.k.a. Obama, but again she came up with a blank.
But then Van Horn found an important clue, because it turns out that the gun ownership question “appears in nearly the exact same format, regardless of which software company produces the program.” Which means there must be some gun-grabber hiding under a bed somewhere who’s ultimately responsible for this nefarious and evil attempt to disarm the good people of Woodward and everywhere else. No guarantees, but our intrepid reporter might have unearthed the source, namely, the American Academy of Pediatrics which, according to her research, published a statement in October, 2012 calling for a question on gun ownership to be included in all patient examinations and histories. Had she bothered to read the actual report, she might have noticed that the same sentence also advised parents “to prevent access to these guns by children.”
I want to talk about this issue of gun access. This past weekend, a 3-year old in New Mexico grabbed a handgun out of his mother’s purse and shot her and her husband, neither of whom luckily died from their injuries. Last month in Idaho a 2-year old pulled a gun out of his mother’s purse and shot her to death. Now I’ll bet you that both of these mothers wouldn’t ever have put their toddler into a car without buckling up the safety harness. And I guarantee you that their pediatricians would have asked them about seat-belt use during routine medical examinations, and neither of these women would have considered the question to be offensive or an invasion of their privacy.
So what makes asking whether or not someone locks away their guns different? I’ll tell you what makes it different. It’s the fantasy that an unsecured gun, as opposed to an unsecured seatbelt doesn’t represent a risk because we need guns to protect us from God knows who or what. And the gun industry has been promoting this fantasy for the last twenty years without a shred of credible evidence to back it up. And guess who just happens to have conducted serious and definitive research that indicates the reverse?