One of the clearest themes of this Texas Legislature has been guns. Open carry, campus carry, you name it–if it has to do with having more guns out in public places, the Tea Party contingent of the Texas Legislature is probably trying to make it legal.
With this many public spaces infiltrated with guns, you’d think that perhaps the Lege would at least try to include some safety measures in their proposed laws, so that the guys openly carrying their assault rifles into an on-campus Taco Bell would have some knowledge of how to be safe with their guns around other people. But this is not the case–instead, legislators are actively trying to make it more difficult for people to gain knowledge about gun safety.
The bill in question comes from State Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman), whose HB 2823 “would prohibit doctors from asking patients whether they own a firearm and makes the Texas Medical Board, which licenses physicians, responsible for doling out punishment.” Spitzer is supported by the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association, which makes it unsurprising that he’s putting their interests before those of his constituents.
Said Spitzer, “Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t.” He wants to protect regular people from his conspiracy theory by making it illegal for doctors to ask patients about guns.
Spitzer, a surgeon himself, should really know better. Guns are an increasingly prevalent public health threat–a study in the journal Pediatrics found that 20 children a day are hospitalized in the US as a result of a gun injury. Guns may soon surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death for young people. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are both vocal advocates for physicians discussing gun safety with patients, with the latter comparing “firearm storage counseling to discussions about wearing seatbelts.” Many gun deaths and injuries come from accidents having to do with improper storage, and speaking with a doctor can help provide information to avoid such injuries. The easier the Texas Legislature makes it to own and carry guns, the larger public health threat they will become.
The Texas medical community is firmly against Spitzer on this issue. Gary Floyd, a Fort Worth pediatrician and board member of the Texas Medical Association, told the Texas Tribune:
“We, as physicians, ask all sorts of questions — about bike helmets and seat belts and swimming pool hazards, dangerous chemicals in the home, sexual behaviors, domestic violence. I could go on and on. …All of that’s geared mainly to how we should direct our advice. As a pediatric [emergency room]doc, one of the worst things you have to do is sit down with the family and explain that the child has died, or may never be the same, because of an unintended gunshot wound.”
HB 2823 was referred to the House Public Health Committee last week, and it remains to be seen if it will continue to move forward. If the other gun bills making their way through the Lege are any indication, it may well pass–and Texans should get ready for more guns on the street with one fewer source of information for those guns to be handled safely.