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FL Children's Doctors Face Gun Gag Order

May 18, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida is set to become the first state to pass a law that would limit doctors' ability to counsel parents about gun safety in the home. Pediatricians who decry the law as wrongheaded are backed by statistics that suggest the law will kill children.

The state Legislature last week approved a bill that would make it illegal for a doctor to ask about guns kept in the home. Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, says the bill is on the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, who is known to support gun rights and will likely sign it.

"There's a jail sentence of up to five years and a financial penalty up to $5 million, which is horrendous."

Supporters of the measure claim it's a parent right-to-privacy issue. St. Petery claims we can expect an increase in injury and death among children and adolescents because of improperly stored guns.

Pediatricians have some stark numbers to back them up. A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill someone known to the family than it is to kill someone in self defense, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatricians.

"Reading of the bill indicates that I cannot discuss with a parent whether or not they have firearms."

Similar legislation has been proposed in Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina.
Supporters of the Florida bill, including the National Rifle Association, say they want to stop doctors from invading their privacy and are concerned the information may be used against them by insurance companies.

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL