Legislation Aims To Bar Doctors From Asking Patients About Gun Ownership

Apr 29, 2015

Credit Greta Ceresini / Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Legislation in the North Carolina House would prohibit health care providers from asking patients if they own firearms. 

Dr. David Hill is a pediatrician in Wilmington. He says it’s important to ask about gun ownership because gun related death is among the top three causes of death for children in the U.S.

"There is evidence on counseling families on appropriate firearms storage can help reduce those deaths. So I ask about firearms for the same reason I ask about car seats and fire detectors," says Hill.

A House Judiciary committee discussed the bill Tuesday. It is now in the House Rules committee.

The bill states that gun owners are entitled to privacy. But Dr. Hill says that in an exam room, when the physician is with a patient that they have a duty to care for, the question of gun ownership should be allowed.

The bill says health care providers don’t need to know this information unless it’s relevant to treatment or if the patient expresses a desire to harm themselves or others.

"I can ask somebody 'Do you have a swimming pool in your back yard?' And they can say 'Well, that’s my personal business.' And I can say, 'Well, okay that is your personal business, I certainly hope you have a fence around it and a pool alarm,'" says Dr. Hill.

The President of the North Carolina Academy of Physicians, Dr. Thomas White of Cherryville, added that doctors never presume to dictate patients’ gun policy, but they do care deeply for their safety and the safety of their children.