What To Do When Your Doctor Asks About Your Guns

By Timothy Wheeler

Doctors and Guns
What To Do When Your Doctor Asks About Your Guns
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Have you had the experience of going to your doctor for a particular problem, let’s say headaches, and been surprised by the doctor asking you about a completely unrelated subject – whether you have a gun in your home?

It’s no accident that doctors’ or health plans’ questions about guns in your home have become routine. In the 1980s and 1990s medical professional organizations declared a culture war on gun ownership in America. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed an official policy (2012 version here) urging pediatricians to probe their young patients’ parents about guns in their homes.

Claiming only to be concerned about “gun safety”, the latest code term for gun control, the AAP pushed its member doctors to advise families to get rid of their guns. One of the authors of the original AAP anti-gun policy, Dr. Katherine Christoffel, was quoted in an AMA journal as saying “Guns are a virus that must be eradicated.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) have also mounted aggressive and highly publicized campaigns against gun ownership and advised their member physicians to pressure their patients to get rid of their guns. Other physician specialty groups have done the same.

Many people are rightly outraged by this unprofessional behavior of some physicians. Several states, most notably Florida, have passed laws to stop doctors and other health care professionals from misusing their patients’ trust to push a political agenda of gun control. Such abuse of authority and trust by a physician is called an ethical boundary violation.

You may encounter the question in your health plan’s standard health appraisal questionnaire. Even though it may not be of your doctor’s making, it’s still part of your permanent medical record. Or your doctor may have a personal prejudice against gun ownership, shaped by her training in medical school or residency.

Either way, it is important for people to know some very important facts:

  • Doctors receive absolutely no training about firearm safety, mechanics, or tactics in medical school or residency. They are completely unqualified by their training to advise anyone about guns.
  • Gun ownership is a civil right. A doctor’s abuse of his position of trust to pressure you to give up that civil right is professionally and morally wrong. In some states it is illegal. You DO NOT have to tolerate it.
  • You as a consumer have great power in the doctor-patient relationship. Do not be afraid to use it.

Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about a doctor who casually talks with you about guns out of a common interest you both may have. If you and your doc get to comparing notes about your favorite hunting rifles or latest trip to the gun range, that is a world apart from a calculated effort to prejudice you against gun ownership.

So what can you do when your doctor or your health plan starts asking you about guns in your home?

Your doctor may very likely just be going along with the guidelines of his or her gun-hating medical organization, such as the AAP or ACP. One survey showed that although many doctors agree that guns are a public health problem, only a minority feel it’s right to ask their patients about guns in their homes. Many doctors sense that it’s wrong and don’t allow themselves to be recruited as gun control activists by their medical organizations.

Doctor Gun Banners
Such abuse of authority and trust by a physician is called an ethical boundary violation.

A range of options is available to you, some sending a more powerful message than others. These are updated from DRGO’s original recommendations, since the medical profession has changed so much in the last two decades.

1) Politely refuse to answer the doctor’s question or the health plan’s questionnaire item about guns. You can either explain your discomfort with the question or decline to give a reason.

2) If the gun question(s) appears on your health plan’s routine health assessment questionnaire, file a formal written complaint with the health plan. Every health plan has a member complaint process, often prescribed by law. Your complaint will be registered and the health plan will respond.

3) If the health plan responds with the excuse that their questions about your guns are standard medical practice that they must follow, you can take the complaint to the next step—file a written complaint with your state agency that regulates health plans. For example, in California you would follow the complaint procedure on the Department of Managed Health Care web site. It’s your right as a patient under California law.

4) If your doctor persists in asking intrusive questions about guns in your home, you can also file a complaint specifically against him or her with your health plan. Such complaints are taken seriously, and the doctor will be called to account for it. Having one or more complaints about ethical boundary violations on her record will make her think twice about doing it again.

5) Internet consumer rating sites have created another way doctors can be publicly rated on the basis of service, attitude, and behavior. Some commonly used rating sites are Yelp.com, Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, and RateMDs.

6) Increasingly, doctors’ pay from Medicare and insurance companies is tied to how they score on patient satisfaction surveys. These are often sent randomly to patients, but you can request one to fill out. You can have a powerful impact on a doctor’s conduct by reporting the doctor’s unethical questioning about your guns.

7) If the doctor’s conduct is especially offensive, as was the case with this Florida pediatrician, you have the right to submit a complaint to the doctor’s licensing board. This is an agency in your state government that holds the ultimate power of licensure over your doctor. A quick internet search for “medical board” in your state should take you to the official form for filing a complaint. This is a step that should not be taken lightly.

Remember when writing your complaint to be polite. Explain why you find the doctor’s or health plan’s behavior unacceptable.

Include the powerful points we’ve discussed:

  • Your doctor is professionally unqualified to give expert advice on firearms
  • Your right to own firearms is a civil right that is none of your doctor’s business
  • A doctor misusing his or her authority and trust to push a political agenda of gun control is an ethical boundary violation. Such unprofessional conduct is not acceptable.
Timothy Wheeler
Timothy Wheeler

Your right to own a firearm is enshrined in the Constitution. Don’t let any doctor or health plan intimidate you into giving up your civil rights.

Download the DRGO Resource Document “What to Do When Your Doctor Asks About Your Guns” here

—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation. www.drgo.us

51 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Doctor Asks About Your Guns

  1. None of their fing business what I do or don’t have ! If asked will ask a question with a question. How many times doctor have you been accused of sexual misconduct with your patients or other issues, and can I review your personal hospital file and retrieve any information supporting my question?

  2. Oh really? You mean to say that a TRAUMA surgeon, or any other surgeon for that matter hasn’t been trained regarding the mechanics of guns, different types of bullets, and the damage they can inflict?

  3. Florida courts ruled that anything a doctor says to you in the office is considered treatment. Therefore, gun discussions of any kind can be considered as treatment. You can decline treatment regarding gun discussions just as you can decline any recommended treatment given by physicians, especially treatment you never sought. In can say, “thank you for your offer to treat me regarding gun ownership, but I respectfully decline.” Return the conversation back to the issue that brought you to the physician in the first place.

  4. I am a physician. I do ask parents if they have guns in their home. I do not intend to teach gun safety or advise against people’s possession of guns. I do advise them to make sure the guns are not accessible to children which most gun owners do. If someone does not like being asked they don’t have to answer. As a physician I personally feel guns in the home has the potential of being a safety issue for children. This has been proven. A small number of gun owners do not take appropriate safety measures. Because I feel this can be a safety issue there is no law…local, state or federal can stop me as a physician from asking this question.

    1. Dr.,make sure when you are giving your patients this unsolicited advise,you tell them to keep their kids out of the street,not to let them drown in the bathtub/swimming pool,don’t get knives out of kitchen drawers,etc.

  5. I would respond to a doctor, asking whether I have guns, by asking an unrelated personal question of my own. The question, “do you have any sex toys in your home?”, could work for a male or a female. Or, for a male, “when is the last time you solicited a prostitute?” or for a female, “when you suck cock, do you spit or swallow?”. I bet they would stop asking stupid questions then.

  6. I am a physician. My electronic medical record offers the OPTION to ask if there are guns in a patient’s home. I do not ask patients anything about firearms and I advise them to lie if they are asked about them by other physicians.

  7. I’ve practiced Dentistry for 34 years and have fixed many of my patients guns after we discuss our hobbies and gunsmith work comes up. They bring in all kinds of things for me to fix and it’s great fun. I get to see a lot of interesting old firearms. I never try to buy things from patients, that to me is crossing a line but I’ll do what I can to fix their problem, both orally and firearm related. But I do the same thing with guitars so I have a lot of work beyond
    my practice life. It builds strong bonds with patients and we have a lot of fun.

    In all areas of healthcare there needs to be a feeling of trust and mutual respect. If you don’t have that with any caregiver you have now, find another one. Life is too short, and that situation could be making it shorter. The more comfortable you are discussing issues with you caregiver, the more likely they are to find ways to help you. We all deserve that. If questions come up that make you uncomfortable, politely discuss your concerns and if they are met with compassion and understanding, stay put. If not, you are in the wrong office and you are selling yourself short. We all deserve to be cared for in a courteous and caring manner. The biggest problems arise when we have to see specialists for short term care. Sometimes you have to compromise a bit for the sake of their expertise but that’s up to you.
    Insist on the best and don’t settle for less. It’s your health at stake, not theirs.

  8. I’m probably the only person in the world that has left his DRs office with a hand full of ammo given to me by my DR.

  9. My doctor knows I own firearms because he signed-off on me
    be eligible to participate in the disabler person’s deer season
    or turkey season. We have also talked about firearms law in

  10. I did not notice a warning for veterans related to this gun question. I understand the VA providers have agreed to inform the Feds is some and perhaps all PDSD cases. I am lucky, having no PDSD, however, I simply say that I support the U. S. Constitution, then ask them – “You support the Constitution too – don’t you?”

  11. Of course I’ve been asked. And not just by doctors/MD but by doctors/DDS and doctors/Ophthalmologist and by several different employers, a couple realtors, and assorted other folks. My stock reply is “of course I own a gun, don’t you?” If they push further I shoot back with a string of questions concerning their professional development and accreditation to speak on matters of the gun; i.e are they a certified instructor or range officer, are they a lifetime competitive shooter or have they ever done something outstanding via the use of a gun (armed forces service for instance)? At this point most of the chaff falls away and I’m either talking to a shooter or a hopolophobe and the conversation is fun and pleasant or cut short abruptly. My oral surgeon thought this was a hoot and we spent almost 90 minutes telling shooting stories, my kids pediatrician never mentioned the subject again. In both situations there was a handgun strapped to my hip and covered by my shirt.

  12. Well, being from Texas I have not run into this problem. If I do, I will politely tell them it is none of their damn business.
    The next step will be to look for a different doctor.

  13. I would make it clear straight out of the box…none of your fuc%ing business and then find another doctor. No games, no questions and no answers, just straight to the point…STFU! I do have two doctors and a dentist that I regularly shoot with.

  14. That and tell them that you can not see them because it violates your Constitutional right that you may not have a gun present. But they will stay in business anyway because they got an annuity tap from the citizen thanks to Obama.

  15. Just say NO. Even if your child says yes (note the doc doesn’t ask what type of guns you have) if they (Government) come to retrieve the guns you can tell them here it is and hand them a water pistol. Why make a big deal out of this. It is obvious why the doctors are asking this question and it not logical. Just let it go!! Freedom of speech Just say NO.

  16. Letter to Curious Doctor

    “Dr. xxxxxxxxx (Pediatrician) and Staff;

    Your ‘feeling’ that you need to know whether or not your patients’ families have firearms in their homes does NOT trump our right to privacy, our Federal Constitution’s Second Amendment nor Article 1, Section 21 to The Bill of Rights in The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Constitution. It also does not pre-emptively trump my right against self-incrimination. Please read on.

    Although some doctors (particularly pediatricians) may ask their patients whether they have firearms at home (many practices have forms asking specifically that), there is no provision of Medicare regulations that requires you to do so; it’s purely an individual initiative on the part of various doctors. I understand that you ‘feel a (temporary) need’ to ensure the ‘Safety’ of your patients. Understand that I have a duty and responsibility to protect my family and keep them safe 365/24/7. Please understand that your priority is a short term one while mine is long term.

    I understand that you took an Oath to ‘Do no harm.’ That Oath must also include long-term cause / effect results of decisions you chose to make. I took an Oath over 35 years ago to defend this Country and its Constitution against ALL Enemies – Foreign AND Domestic. Nobody has ever relieved me of my duties under that Oath. My military service was spent protecting this Country (and my family). I still have a responsibility and duty to protect my family; both short-term and long-term. Please read on.

    Please understand that when you ask my children about firearms in my house and whether or not they ‘feel safe’, your desire for information is a short term one. My denial of any information however is long term. Before you give me any attitude – AGAIN – let me explain what I mean. When you put these answers onto your form and put this information into your computer, it is FOREVER. The current administration would like to see ALL medical records kept in one place – the federal government’s HHS. Once there, who will ensure my children’s and my right to privacy or ‘Doctor / Patient Confidentiality’? Will you? Will you swear an oath to protect that information and to protect any repercussions that may occur?

    Who will ensure that the government doesn’t use these records and information as an end around to create a database of firearm owners – or HIV positive people – or people with heart disease – or cancer – or obesity? Will you? What if the state or federal government decides to declare that all must register and/or turn in their fire arms? What if they decide to scour all databases for this information? What’s that – it couldn’t happen? That would be ILLEGAL; Unethical; Immoral? They just can’t do that? You don’t believe me? Who is going to STOP them? Will you? Do the current scandals of the IRS or NSA hit a nerve? What happens in the interim while it is being debated in the Court System and the databases are being scoured? You CANNOT undo the damage done while waiting for a Supreme Court ruling of ‘Unconstitutional’! Can you? Will you truly be there 24/7 to protect your patients and their families or are you just gathering data in the name of ‘SAFETY’? Will you give me the code to your security system? Do you have fire arms or other weapons in your home? It’ll just be between you and me . . .

    You don’t believe me? Do the current scandals of the IRS or NSA hit a nerve? If you follow history, you will know that in the 1930’s Germans were required to register fire arms. Guess what happened? You think I’m a conspiracy theorist? NO, I’m NOT. I’m a realist who studies history and actually understands the long range strategies of individuals and groups of individuals – good and evil. Sir Winston Churchill said “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Germany didn’t have the technology we have in this day and age – imagine if they did. It is NOTHING to hack a database nowadays.

    In June 2011, Florida became the first state to pass a law prohibiting such inquiries when Gov. Rick Scott signed a law barring doctors from routinely asking patients if they own guns unless such questions are “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety.” In September 2011, however, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking its implementation. For the time being, the injunction allows Florida doctors to continue discussing relevant safety issues with parents, said Florida pediatrician Louis St. Petery, MD.

    I have no problem discussing relevant safety issues with you. I cannot and will not allow you to use ‘safety’ as a catch-all to gather information that you have no way of controlling in the future. Please do not ask my minor children about things that may compromise their safety and/or mine in the future.

    If you’d like to discuss this further, I’m available on the days I’m not working . . . Call me and we can talk. I’m actually a very easy person to talk with.

    Name withheld”

  17. My wife took daughter, age 6 at the time for md wellness visit,
    he asked my daughter if there were any guns in the house,
    she said my dad keeps one on the closet, he looked alarmed,
    my wife followed up with ‘it is an air rifle’ and it is unloaded,
    no ammo in the area. He relaxed a bit.

    She did not tell him anything else. None of his biz.

    1. Your wife should of cut that question to your daughter right off…… the 6 yr old should not of known about it either

  18. I would list all my guns… my paintball gun,, my Nerf gun, my paint gun, my movie titled Top Gun and the Naked Gun series, and my little dog named Gunner.

  19. Had to go to the emergency room a few week back, one of the first questions they asked is “do you have any guns in the house?” I told themof not even though I have 2. It is none of their business what I have and don’t have, I also have a sword or 2, both are nice for certain types of defense.

  20. I took a moment to count up my many doctors:
    Transplant liver doctor
    Transplant Kidney doctor
    Local kidney doctor
    Local diabetes doctor.
    Local heart doctor
    VA family doctor
    VA opthamologist
    VA podiatrist
    I see them regularly, and not one has ever inquired about gun ownership..

  21. Just tell them you are worried about hackers and there are some things hackers do not need to know. The remark about malpractice is also very good, then you can go on to quote the stastics about malpractice deaths in America every year.
    I believe the number is enormous: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals
    That is enough to kept them quiet.

  22. One of the ways to combat this is putting right back on them – when they ask, don’t answer. Ask them….do you? If they say no – ask them – “why not – don’t you want to protect yourself and your family”? If they answer “that is what the police are for” – when seconds count, the police are minutes away. If they give you the spiel about suicides and “people being killed by their own guns”….total BS – tell them to cite it, them tell them, on average, firearms are used to stop crime 2.5 million times a year, sometimes just brandishing the weapon. Ask them, “why are you against the elderly and women protecting themselves?” GOD Bless…..

  23. Well…if all my firearms are in a Firearms Trust…then I don’t own them, right?

    So I don’t have any guns in my home. My Trust does, but I don’t….

    Just wondering if we can pervert the meaning of words the same way that gun grabbers do …

    1. I don’t know if it would be smart to put non NFA firearms in your trust. The only firearms I have in my trust are two NFA stamped SBR’s and a AAC 762 silencer. If you put all your non NFA firearms in your trust then the government would know everything you have. (thats what they want to do now and you would be just giving them that information to potentionally use agains’t you down the road) You are right though if they are in your trust you don’t technically own them,the faceless entity does. Less is always better when it comes to info.the govt.has on your firearms. This president and his minions can’t be trusted on anything,eps.firearms !

  24. I’ve been asked. I just ask why they need to know…then I “mention” that my wife hates guns and that I learned that…a happy wife…leads to a happy life. The doc then chuckles and goes on with what he’s doing…

  25. If your physician asks this question, he is doing it as an agent of the federal government. Just write, “Please refer to Articles 2, 4 and 5 of the Bill of Rights.”

    1. Article 2 of the US Constitution describes the office and duties of the President, Article 4 the relationships of the individual states and Article 5 the process for proposing new amendments to the Constitution.
      I think you are referring to the AMENDMENTS listed in the Bill of Rights: 2nd Amendment (right to keep and bear arms), 4th amendment (right be secure in your home, unreasonable search), 5th Amendment (due process).
      Your Doc might not have taken any gun safety classes, but he might have paid attention in a civics or government class.

      1. Probably because nobody wanted obozo Pandora ‘ s box of bullshit so called healthcare, they just jammed it down our throats.

  26. They would not be my doctor any longer if they asked about something like that. If I have guns has no effect on my health except for keeping me alive if I ever need them for that.

    1. I am a linguist. The doctor asked the patient i was translating for if they owned a gun. I got reported just because i was surprised from her question. Does anyone know if doctors in OHIO can or should ask this questio? Also I have translated in the same medical facility many times and not once a doctor asked this before. The patient was a family with 4 kids and nothing in their conversation indicated of such a hobby.. just the fact that the family is Saudi and they are muslim. I was offended for them .

  27. You can always ask them if they have ever been accused of malpractice, and if so, did it result in the death or disability of their patient?

    1. Without a doubt that is the best reply yet. I just filled out the patient information for a new doctor and it had the question “Do you have any guns in your home?” Even the receptionist when shook her head when I asked what’s up with this question. I just wrote on the form “none of your F ing business”.

  28. Ask for what situation , no one firearm fills the capacity of all needs . They ask about storage most are locked up , except for the carry 2 kept loaded . They ask about kids over , I lock everything including the load room. They ask about self defense, I tell them that it is okay to kill intruders in the night. They complain that thieves shouldn’t be shot for stealing, well how do you know that’s all they are going to do? After all they are criminals and you don’t know. They say I would suffer emotionally for shooting a thief , wrong it was their choice that landed them there .
    My doctors are usually mad by now and I just laugh , weak minds clouded by CDC and their antigun policies “Studies”.

  29. My girlfriend is a resident at a local Cleveland hospital. She can shoot and actually feels safer with our guns in the house.

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