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

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

    1. When my doctor asked if there was guns in the home my reply was “this appointment is over”, walked out the door never went back.

    2. Sorry doc but I had to sell the couple old shotguns dad gave me to help pay for prescriptions and deductible and co-pays and stuff. Are you sure there are not other cheaper generics?

    3. Sorry doc, I used to have an old shotgun my dad gave me, but I had to sell it to help pay for prescriptions. Those things are so expensive. Are there not more generics that are cheaper?


    4. Back around 1982 or so I read an article about who gun owners were. It pointed out that they were better educated and better off financially than non gun owners (so much for the wild eyed ignorant red neck image so beloved by anti-gunners.) Lawyers and doctors were especially well represented among gun owners.

      The stench of hypocrisy.

    5. I was reading an article about this organization “HELP” a group of apparently rapidly anti-gun medical practitioners, I have included an excerpt from an article on boundary violations about this group, below.

      The AAP, ACP, and AMA are members of the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP) Network, based in Chicago. HELP is an exclusive advocacy group dedicated to banning guns. Physicians who disagree with HELP’s anti-gun agenda are barred from attending HELP’s conferences, a policy unthinkable in any scientific organization. HELP’s founder and leader Dr. Katherine Christoffel has compared guns to viruses that must be eradicated.(9) The group’s militant advocacy has no place for differing viewpoints on firearms, and apparently neither do the medical organizations which have signed on as HELP members.

      Excerpted from the Boundary Violation: Gun Politics in the Doctor’s Office article from Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership .
      I tried to find a roster of each HELP’s membership so that it could be circulated amongst the 2A community, so that we could have a reference that would very clearly show who members of HELP are, and determine if any of our doctors are one of them, then that doctor, medical group or practice could be avoided .
      Unfortunately my web search got me nowhere. I was wondering if somebody anticipating in this discussion might have a better idea or better resources for acquiring the membership roster for HELP, for the above stated purpose of circulating amongst the 2A community for reference.
      Additionally with this membership roster we could initiate activities, peaceful activities against doctors, medical practices and organizations with HELP memberships to dissuade them from their rabid anti-2A ideology.
      Not to mention that if might be quite beneficial to actively campaign against HELP directly.
      most definitely interested in hearing anybody’s thoughts about campaigning directly against HELP and acquiring their membership roster for reference.

    6. As memory serves, no medical personnel ever asked. Ditto for health plan “surveys” or inquiries of any kind. Seems like others have had different experiences


    8. NOTE to ALL VA USERS !!!
      The VA is a Government agency .
      If you are taking certain kinds of meds,
      Obtained through VA. they can ,
      (1) stop those meds
      (2) stop you from future purchase’s
      (3) send the feds to your house for
      breaking some laws on medication use,
      and firearms ownership

    9. Simply just say no.. If you say none of your business the doctor will put put in his/her records that you do have guns.. My doctor is a personal friend of mine and we go shooting and hunt together … He says just say no …

    10. My youngest son goes to the VA. Doc asked question; son said, ‘what do u think?’ End of conversation!
      My Doc has more guns than me! I get checked out and then I say, ‘Obama are says we need to talk about guns.’ We laugh and then talk! LOL!

    11. My doctor’s clinic does not post a gun free zone sign. i carry every time I see him. He didn’t have to ask. The first time he wanted to examine me. I politely told him that I was carrying and would need to remove it for the examination. Nothing more was said about it. He’s still my doctor today. I don’t know where he stands on guns. I guess silence said it all.

      1. Dont like two female Doctors any way , looking for a better Doc. When I was asked I simply denied owning . One must always be careful what prescriptions they are giving you and the reason . Some will easily write “Anxiety” thats a No No . Some medices used for multiple reasons , make sure your Doc writes what you want , not what they feel like writing into your medical records . T. Y .

      2. You have that right. It’s easier to play dumb if your caught than it is to ask permission from some a**hole bureaucrat, who will find a reason to deny your request.

    12. I said this earlier, I’ll say it again. I asked my doctor for help dealing with pain in my wrists and hands from carpal tunnel
      syndrome and arthritis. Other than that no discussion of my gun ownership.

      I think, if I remember right, medico did show me card listing health risks of various common activities. I think it said use your seat belt in a car, quit smoking, drink less, use eye and hearing protection and wash powder residue off after shooting. I figure that is all that my gun ownership is his business.

      However, I have to admit that much is his business.

    13. Just tell the doc “NOYFB” None of your F—— business. I go to the VA and have not been asked but one guy years ago did say that he was supposed to ask but we will just pretend I did.

    14. If you have an iPhone, a FREE and very useful ‘APP’ is easily downloaded, and offers updates whenever you open it… LEGAL HEAT : it covers the federal and state gun laws for each of the states in the U.S. Additionally, gives interstate transportation guidance and airport recommendations and some more. Hope this is of some help.

      1. It’s also on Android. HOWEVER…for $0.99, you get lifetime updates of any new regulations that have been enacted! Mas Ayoob is the founder of Legal Heat. If you don’t know his name….why are you carrying??

        1. Mas Ayoob is my favorite on concealed carry. I’ve read all of his books, as far as I know. He has articles in several magazines, good man.

    15. After I have read my gun and L-E magazines (“America’s First Freedom,” “Law Enforcement Technology” and “Law Enforcement Product News”) I scratch out my name and address and leave these in my doctor’s office. “In yo’ face, muthas!”

    16. “Of course, Doc!” “Doesn’t every thinking person that loves their family and want to protect them?”

      or maybe..” Sure!! You want to see it ??”

    17. ALL of the clinics and hospital’s in this area have signs banning firearms. Of course nothing prevents you from carrying a 380 or micro 9 and not telling anyone. I have done it a couple of times in big city hospital’s late at night. Just make
      sure nobody sees it. That means keep it in your pocket not in a holster if you are a patient. Getting back to the doctor question just say “no”. Avoid a conflict since they are in a position to mess with you.

      1. Of coarse, you are absolutely right. Just keep it out of sight and your mouth shut. Don’t even let your spouse or anyone else see it or know it, this gives them real deniability. Don’t do stupid things that will attract attention. If you go into a store leave the gun in the car, out of sight, the reason I do this is because just suppose someone accuses you of shop lifting, and you are taken into the back room with the police, your screwed. Be wise in your quest to protect your self and family.

        1. Ray, et. al.

          Whether you’re “screwed” or not depends entirely on the Laws of your jurisdiction/State/County/City. In Texas a VERY SPECIFIC signage MUST be of a certain (big) size and say EXACTLY official verbiage in order to be ‘legal’. One can absolutely skip all those NO GUNS signs and pictures of guns with circle/slashes on the, Ignore them.

          However, IF ANY merchant tells you to leave with your weapon – for ANY reason, you MUST leave. Whether the is any sign of any type at all. You have a right to go into such place. You do NOT have the right to stay if asked to leave, for any reason.

          Point is: KNOW YOUR GUN LAWS FOR YOUR PLACE. If you carry – and don’t know the Laws…THEN YOU’RE SCREWED…..

          1. Again you are right,. I am in a state that doesn’t see things the way Texas does. But I refuse to let them put me and my family in jeopardy, Nuff said , OK.

            1. Yep. you’re right. I know of people who just keep everything covered up and go on about their business – no matter WHAT the “Rules” are.

              They say they believe their family’s protection is a basic right – and outweighs the small chance that they will be discovered carrying concealed……

    18. Doctors have been asking this for along time . You should have reported this when they first started asking . Now its to late, as countless number of people have answered that question.

      1. Your defeatism is duly noted. Now go stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself whether you still have the gumption to challenge the situation in spite of the seeming hopelessness. You are never defeated until you stop fighting.

      2. and that does not put any pressure on ME to answer it….or to file a complaint.

        If I don’t refuse, then I’m contributing to the problem.

    19. The corporation that owns, runs the facility where my doctor has his office had the “no guns sign” on the door.
      I told my doctor that the drug user might still invade the clinic looking for drug samples. The spouse of a patient, angry about a medical failure might come to kill the doctor or nurse.
      The sign would not discourage such but it does keep me from bringing my gun to the office where I might be able to save a life.
      The doctor got his CCHL and bought a GLOCK. The sign came down.
      Don’t get angry, use a question to get them to think about their lives and risks.

    20. yes indeed i have a female doc that loves shooting she fixes me up we share gun tips .got to get what i can from co pays.


      1. and they don’t build up mercury in your body, which can lead to dangerous conditions like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and other central nervous system conditions.

        And if ever it comes down to something like thinking they DO pose a danger to your continued health and security (on what real basis I cannot imagine, but that;s YOUR deal) the “cure” is simple. Put the gun, unloaded, into your car, and head on down to the nearest pawnshop, gun store, gun show, and get rid of it. Gone, done, no more. Then again, if you wake up and repent of your folly, you can always head back to any of the above and get another.

    22. Yes my Doc has asked me about guns in my home. I don’t mind if he does cause he to is a person who likes them. He asks me if I have gotten any new ones and what they are. We talk about them pleasantly and go on to the real reason for the visit. If a Doc asks me and then tells me I need to get rid of them I will most prob look for another Doc to go to. It is none of there business if I have them or not and they do not have the right to tell me how bad I am that I have them.

      1. Jacob,

        If you are in a bar talking guns with your doctor, it is not professional. If in his office/exam room you are giving up personal info that is none of his business. He is playing you and you fell for it, hook, line and sinker !

    23. You are under no obligation whatsoever to answer truthfully.
      “Just say, ‘NO’.” I do. It avoids the muss and fuss. My wife sees a diffetent physician, she says “No” too.

      1. The thing is, it’s not a question having anything to do with your health, which means you have no obligation to answer affirmatively or otherwise. Most intelligent people understand a pissed-off stare and will go on.

    24. Have discussed owning guns with my MD in context of problems from discomfort shooting due to arthritis in my hands and carpal tunnel issues. Also with my optometrist and eyeglass providers to make sure I get appropriate glasses for shooting. Unless treating specific issues like these, reminding me to use proper safety gear and to wash my hands properly after shooting and cleaning guns, the doctor should not stick his nose into my gun ownership. Please note this is after I volunteered the info that I own a gun to get help with specific health issues. Otherwise none of his damn business.
      BTW, 9mm Para +p ammo is pleasant to shoot one handed even when “the rheumatis” is acting up.

    25. My doctor introduced me to trap shooting and gifted me my first few rounds. That’s the kind of doctor everyone should have.

    26. I totally enjoyed this article. But I would like to add two more possible methods to correct this.

      8) Tell the Doctor good-bye, and leave.

      9) Walk out into the Doctors sitting room, and announce that the Doctor is anti the Bill of Rights, especially the Second Amendment.

      I did #9, and surprising, two patients sitting there left with me.

      I have learned NOT to be afraid of stating my position in public. If you do not stand up to these abuses, they will continue.

      Alan Chwick
      (Retired) Managing Coach
      Freeport NY Junior Marksmanship Program ( http://www.FreeportJuniorClub.org )

      1. Good on you, Alan. I’m sure that most doctors won’t like getting stung in their hip pocket, losing custom. It is important that other patients know about a doctor’s prying into private affairs that are not their bloody business! We have to prevent their social engineering, I reckon you’re a better judge of gun safety than that doctor could imagine.

    27. I agre, doctors are experts in health care. All of their opinions outside of their area of expertise,are worthless.
      There is no shortage of physitions. Just find one who respects you’re 2nd Amendment rights!
      Case closed.

    28. While gun ownership is a civil right and one that I personally take very seriously, it’s not for everyone. If a doctor or a form asking a few questions or trying to push an opinion makes you think twice about owning a firearm, you may be one of those people that shouldn’t. My wife and I left our first pediatrician because he suggested that our Beagle was an unacceptable risk in a home with a newborn. No doctor is going to talk me into giving up one of the tools I keep to protect my family. They are far more important to me than hurting his poor, little liberal feelings.

      1. @Mario, As I weigh the balance, the family dog versus the most brilliant and talented pediatrician that the world has ever known… the family dog wins!

    29. Are the doctors campaigning against bicycles, too? Bicycles cause three to 4 times as many accidental deaths than guns. Drugs are high on that list, too ?

      Maybe a question for the doctor would be:
      Hey Doc, Do you have any guns at home ?
      Oh no, of course not.
      Doc, Would you be willing to post a sign in your yard that says you do not have any guns in your home ?

      You see Doc. If I say I have guns, I become a target of you and your group. If I say I don’t have any guns, I become a target of another group.

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