Here we go again. Another state legislature, in this case North Carolina, may be joining 3 other dumb states in enacting a law that will prevent physicians from talking to patients about guns. The bill would prohibit physicians from mentioning guns on intake questionnaires and worse, prohibits physicians from telling authorities about concerns that arise from interviewing a patient about gun ownership. This stupidity first began in Florida which passed such a law inaugurating a legal battle known as Docs Versus Glocks which eventually resulted in the law being upheld by the 11th Circuit in 2014.
The North Carolina law, however, goes further into the realm of stupidity because it not only enjoins physicians from asking patients about gun ownership unless the patient has expressed a desire to harm himself or others, but it also prohibits disclosing information about gun ownership to any authorities except in instances where the aforesaid patient – ready for this? – has been “adjudicated incompetent due to mental illness.” Does this law actually forbid a physician from informing law enforcement about a potential act of gun violence because the patient in question hasn’t yet gone before a judge who decided that the guy happens to be crazy as hell? That’s right. That’s exactly what the bill which may be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee actually says.
This new law creates a rather interesting predicament for doctors even if they don’t feel compelled to ask their patients about guns. Because let’s say that a patient tells a physician, for example, that he’s suffering from extreme depression and is thinking of taking his own life. He then further tells the physician that he owns guns and he is planning to use one of the guns on himself because he knows that it’s the quickest and easiest way to get the job done. Under this law, the physician can’t actually do or say anything at all. The guy is depressed but he’s lucid and hardly mentally incompetent. The doctor can ask the guy about what kind of gun he’s planning on using to blow a hole through his head, but all he can do is perhaps suggest that the patient rethink the whole idea. He can’t even tell the patient to get rid of the gun because the law also says that an individual’s right to own a gun is a “private matter” over which the doctor has no authority or input at all.
I’m not totally surprised that such a law would be enacted when I consider the original source, namely a loony Republican State Representative named George Cleveland, who once stated that nobody in North Carolina suffered from ‘extreme poverty’ when, in fact, roughly 8% of the state’s residents have incomes that fall below the extreme poverty line, and overall North Carolina ranks as the 13th poorest state. This rock-red Republican, by the way, just happens to be a gun nut and you can get a sense of this from his home page on Pinterest which is covered with guns. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that Representative Cleveland is a bad guy because he likes guns. I think he’s a bad guy because this is a bad law.
Cleveland’s bill stands the Hippocratic Oath on its head. The law basically says that a physician cannot do or say anything to reduce the possible harm caused by someone who admits wanting to use a gun to hurt themselves or someone else. Of course this same physician would be free to pick up the telephone and call the cops if someone walked into his clinic and said he was going to stab someone else with a knife. If anyone other than the NRA really thinks this law is an important step forward in protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, then I just hope you’re not the guy or gal in North Carolina whose spouse just told a physician that they are going to grab you, grab their gun and put a bullet through your ear.