We need to talk about gun safety. Really.
At a typical well-child visit, pediatricians talk to parents and kids about everything from nutrition to proper seat belt use. Our advice is based on evidence: What, statistically, is the most common scenario for a toddler drowning in a pool? (Entering it from their own home through an unlocked door.) What is the most common method of suicide in teenage boys? (A firearm.) Doctors rely on good information and an unimpeded communication between doctor and patient in order to be effective.
More recently, gun-rights advocates were successful in shaping a provision in an amendment to Title I of the Affordable Care Act, called Title X, Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights, which prohibits the collection of data on gun ownership at doctor visits. A few of the provisions are just silly posturing. For instance, we cannot require disclosure of gun ownership or storage. Well, no kidding. A doctor visit relies on self-reporting. Patients can lie about anything from smoking to how many doughnuts they eat if they want to, but the reality is that most parents, including gun owners, are more than willing to talk openly to their doctor about anything that affects the safety of their child.
A more concerning provision is that, while not explicitly preventing the doctor to talk about gun safety, the law prohibits doctors from collecting or maintaining that information in a record -- effectively putting a gag on the health record instead of directly on the doctor. Data collection, even without research and analysis, is critical. Data gathered by the CDC reveals that 42 percent of gun owners with teenagers in their household do not keep their guns locked up. When there are younger children in the household, 29 percent of gun owners do not lock their guns. Those sobering statistics give us focus for discussions with parents. Measures to suppress this kind of information have no place in a health care law.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Maggie Kozel's must-read article titled: "Putting a Gag on Doctors: The Wrong Approach for Gun Rights" which can be read in its entirety on The Huffington Post.