The short-sighted rights of some gun owners has resulted in various forms of legislation, which has quickly spread to other states, mostly with Republican governors and state legislatures. The National Rifle Association has only been too happy to have its lawyers prepare template legislation to facilitate other states passage of similar laws. The “Stand Your Ground” law, which was first enacted here in Florida, is a good example. It is now in force in 24 states.
The “Florida Firearms Owners Privacy Act”, which has recently become law, is perhaps the latest iteration of such gun-owners’ rights legislation. It states that medical personnel cannot ask patients about firearms ownership, enter such information into patient records, or discriminate or harass them for firearms ownership. Last year, two federal judges upheld the law on the basis that patient-privacy and gun ownership trump freedom of speech. HUH?
This law was challenged by a number of prominent physicians, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, on behalf of several county medical associations and child welfare societies,.on the basis that it unconstitutionally restricts free speech. They argued that the law unconstitutionally restricts free speech, nd it hampers the ability of medical personnel to protect the health and safety of patients and their families. The District Court ruled the law unconstitutional; however, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Court upheld the law (2-1). Needless to say, that ruling will be appealed to the full appellate court.
Both federal and state law guarantees a person’s right to own firearms. No contest there! But, how can their right to do so not even be subject to some manner of safeguards, common sense, and a degree of medical sanity for other people? Doctors and school officials are expected to report apparent indications of child abuse to the appropriate authorities, and likewise, doctors should discuss potential signs of domestic battery with their (adult) patients. So, why are weapons not afforded similar consideration?
My specific concern is with children. Battered wives and husbands are grown-ups, and to a certain extent, they can fend for themselves, although some encouragement might be required. But, how many times have we read about small children, like the five year old boy in rural Kentucky who shot and killed his two-year old sister, with his “Cricket Rifle”? He found it leaning against a cabinet, and the mother said: “We didn’t think it was loaded.” DUH!
Now, I would suggest that the same gun culture that pushes for unfettered gun owners’ rights, does not advocate as vehemently for the rights of others, both regard to personal safety and proper health care. Also, I believe that that same gun-ownership mentality includes many patrons of web sites like those of the Cricket Rifle Company, which manufactured the rifle that that five-year old boy had received on his fifth birthday. The web site, titled “My First Rifle”, is as follows: http://crickett.com. And by the way, do you think that five year old read the fifteen page “User Manual” before he played with his new present?