I’ve been trying to catch up with Marion Hammer, the former president of the NRA and top lobbyist for the pro-gun group here in Florida, for years.
I’m a lifelong gun owner, but she’s never accepted my offers to meet up for a range day. So I was glad to see she’s writing here at Context Florida now. I’d like to take a minute to chat with Hammer about her post last week praising the state’s recent “Docs vs. Glocks” law.
Marion, as a big believer in constitutional rights, I’d imagine you’re as much a fan of the First Amendment as you are of the Second. Yet your lobbying helped pass a law that makes doctors criminals for exercising their speech rights: in this case, inquiring about the presence of firearms in a patient’s home.
You argue that there’s only one reason for this to come up in an exam room: a “political agenda” by doctors “to ban guns.” You cite some strong anti-gun stuff that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has put out. Fair enough, although I don’t go to a pediatrician for my physicals, and I don’t know a lot of kids with guns.
Does the AAP appear to have a political agenda? Sure. And I don’t agree with it. But I can’t argue with the public-health premise that led to their conclusion: Multiple studies over decades have shown that your statistical risk of dying by gunshot increases dramatically when you possess a gun in your home. So does your spouse’s risk. So does your child’s. Men who own guns are 400 percent likelier to commit suicide than unarmed men.
You take issue with these studies, even the recent ones and the ones that control for a lot of variables. We could gather more statistical data to see if the docs’ studies bear out, but federal agencies have been barred from collecting data or performing research on firearm injuries, thanks to some laws you and the NRA helped push through Congress in the 1990s. (Speaking of political agendas!)
We trust our medical professionals with scads of deeply personal information. And we already answer lots of doctors’ invasive questions with health implications — questions like “Are you having unprotected sex?” “Do you smoke?” “Going through any stress at home or work lately?” “Have you had an abortion or miscarriage?” “Do you drink to excess or take drugs?”
Depending on our reactions to these questions, our doctors lay some knowledge on us about the risks of such behavior. I can’t imagine who doesn’t know that unprotected sex comes with a lot of risks, but confronted with the data, maybe some people are a little more circumspect about their choices.
Maybe the same thing happens with guns. Not necessarily that people make their houses gun-free in response to a doctor’s recommendation, but that they take greater safety precautions, get gun locks. Heck, maybe they even get some training from an NRA-certified shooting instructor, or sign their kids up for an NRA Eddie Eagle gun safety course.
As I said, Marion, I’m a gun owner, and I’m sensitive to your concerns. It’s never easy talking about these personal matters with a white-coated stranger. But rather than clamp down on that eminently qualified stranger’s freedom to inform you of the hazards that accompany your choices, you should do what the rest of us have always done when confronted with these questions: Lie.
Say you don’t own a gun, never smoke, and always drink in moderation. You’re going to get the same lecture on health either way. Even after the lectures, lots of people still smoke. And lots of people will still keep and bear arms.
Maybe you should give those arms-bearers more credit for their ability to hear the risks that come with their choices. Gun owners aren’t children. Even a pediatrician knows that.
Adam Weinstein is a Tallahassee-based senior writer for Gawker. He has worked for the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, and Mother Jones. Column courtesy of Context Florida.