Health organizations oppose Wisconsin bill barring doctors from asking about gun ownership

  • Updated: June 19, 2013 - 12:45 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Health organizations say a Wisconsin bill that would prohibit doctors from asking patients whether they own guns would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

Under the proposal from Republican Rep. Michael Schraa, doctors except for psychiatrists who violated the ban could face a $25,000 fine or nine months in prison.

"Owning a firearm, or not owning a firearm, is a personal decision that has nothing to do with your physical health," Schraa said in a statement. "Patients should not feel intimidated or harassed by their physicians over the exercise of a constitutional right."

But health organizations said the provision "is detrimental to medical providers' ability to educate patients and in so doing prevent injury and death,"

In a memo sent to lawmakers, organizations including American Family Children's Hospital, Dean Clinic, Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, SSM Health Care of Wisconsin, UW Hospital and UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said physicians' ability to deliver a firearm safety message to patients would be jeopardized under the bill.

UW Health pediatrician Dipesh Navsaria said they always ask parents about gun ownership to make sure they know how to minimize firearm risks to children.

"It's no different from any other safety measures," Navsaria said. "We talk about car seats; we talk about bike helmets. We ask if the household cleaners are locked up."

The Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/17WxLIo) reported Wednesday the ban is part of a broader measure that would penalize local and state police for enforcing certain federal gun regulations and require firearms manufactured in the state to have a "Made in Wisconsin" stamp.

Schraa said his bill "sends a simple message to the federal government. Wisconsin will not help you take away our Second Amendment rights."

Nine states have introduced similar bills in recent years but none were passed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A Florida law passed in 2011 was blocked by a federal judge.

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