Texas Gun Bill Would Prohibit Gun Ownership Inquiries by Doctors
A gun bill in Texas has been pre-filed which, if passed, would prohibit a physician from inquiring into whether a patient has a gun in their home.
Specifically, Texas Senate Bill 104 filed by State Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) provides that a doctor may not:
- inquire into, or ask a patient to disclose, whether a firearm is located or stored on property owned by or under the patient ’s control, including the patient’s home; and
- require that information described by Subdivision (1) be disclosed before providing treatment to the patient.
The bill amends the Texas Occupations Code and while it applies to a physician, it does not apply to a psychiatrist.
Breitbart News reported in January 2013 that President Barack Obama said he wanted doctors to talk to patients about responsible gun use, and that he did so in response to a letter sent to the White House by the American Medical Association. The January 8, 2013 letter to the White House from various medical groups requested increased federal and state funding for “better access to psychiatric treatment.” They also said that the funding “should be combined with an education campaign that reduces the stigma of seeking mental health services.”
As reported, the letter referenced the Sandy Hook Elementary School Newtown, Connecticut shooting massacre of Dec. 14, 2012 and also referenced the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Arizona, and Aurora shootings. It said, “Renewing and strengthening the assault weapons ban, including banning high-capacity magazines, would be a step in the right direction.” The 53 medical organizations represented by the letter also requested increased funding for medical programs from the White House. The letter was signed by the AMA as well as the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It said:
Many of the deaths and injuries resulting from firearms are preventable. More resources are needed for safety education programs that promote more responsible use and storage of firearms. Physicians need to be able to have frank discussions with their patients and parents of patients about firearm safety issues and risks to help them safeguard their families from accidents. While the overwhelming majority of patients with mental illness are not violent, physicians and other health professionals must be trained to respond to those who have a mental illness that might make them more prone to commit violence. Funding needs to be available for increased research on violence prevention in general, and on the epidemiology of gun-related injuries and deaths in particular, as well as to implement available evidence-based interventions. Of equal importance is providing sufficient access to mental health services.
Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home.
If passed, the Texas Act would take effect on September 1, 2017. The bill specifies that it only applies to conduct that occurs on or after the effective date of the Act. Conduct that occurred prior to September 2, 2017 is governed by the law in effect on the date the conduct occurred.
Disciplinary action could be taken against the doctor by the board if he or she violated this provision.
As reported by Breitbart News in July 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated an injunction blocking the state of Florida’s “Firearms Owners Privacy Act.” The Sunshine State law prohibits a physician from inquiring into a patient’s gun ownership. The 2-1 vote by the Eleventh Circuit panel in Wollschlaeger v. Farmer upheld against a facial challenge that the law did not violate physicians’ First Amendment rights. They also found that the Florida statute was not unconstitutionally vague nor over broad.
The Florida law also contained provisions that applied to insurance companies, emergency medical technicians and paramedics but was not challenged in the lawsuit brought by a physician. The State passed the law after a mother of a minor patient in Ocala, Florida, refused to answer questions about guns in her home. The doctor told the mother that she had 30 days to find a new pediatrician for her child.
The “Docs v. Glocks” law as it was called, provides that a doctor may not ask about whether a patient or a patient’s family owns guns unless the “information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” As reported by Breitbart, the Florida law was passed after there were concerns that Obamacare could lead doctors to start a national gun registry. Like the Texas bill, pre-filed here, doctors would be subject to professional discipline if they violated this law. Doctors in Florida were also banned from putting information about gun ownership into a patient’s permanent medical record.