Links for May 8th

  • NPR: Florida Bill Could Muzzle Doctors On Gun Safety
    An NRA-written bill has passed the Florida legislature, and is likely to be signed by the governor, that will make it illegal for doctors to advise patients on gun safety. (Pediatricians frequently advise new parents on how to store firearms safely, and doctors concerned about teenagers' mental health want to make sure they're not a danger to themselves or others.) Every time I think about joining the NRA, they remind me that they are wretched human beings.
  • Boing Boing: Portable Pepper Mill
    I like Boing Boing a lot, I really do. I tire of Cory Doctorow writing about Cory Doctorow—nearly everything he writes—and I even subscribe via a Yahoo Pipe that removes anything containing the word "steampunk," but easily 10% of the posts are pure gold. But their "Cool Tools" section has gotten totally ridiculous. Exhibit A is this post, where the unnamed author says that she would "never go anywhere without [her] portable pepper mill," and then pimps the Vic Firth Pump and Grind Pepper Mill, complete with Amazon referral link. Which raises such questions as a) She really doesn't go to many places, does she? b) Aren't all pepper mills portable? and c) When did she become such an asshole?
  • The Guardian: Osama bin Laden death—The conspiracy theories
    Here's what the crazies think. A Fox News anchor says that Obama is lying about Bin Laden's death to get reelected. Glenn Beck says Bin Laden is alive, as a captive, being interrogated about where he's hiding his secret nuclear bomb. Conservative radio host Alex Jones says that Bin Laden was killed nine years ago, but was kept frozen until such as time as it would be convenient to claim that he'd just been killed.
  • Bacon’s Rebellion: Why, Bob, Why?
    Peter Galuszka contrasts Bob McDonnell's cutting $0.4M in funding for public broadcasting from the state budget and giving $3.5M to Steven Spielberg to make a movie. Not only is cutting funding for public broadcasting an economically unsound decision (that's how schools get some of their educational materials, which they'll now have to pay for to get from elsewhere), but giving 775% more to a private film production company a few days later is deeply hypocritical.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

14 replies on “Links for May 8th”

  1. Re: the doctors and guns law
    “the NRA agreed to one exception to the ban: Doctors would be permitted to ask questions about guns in cases where they feel it’s directly relevant to the patient’s care or the safety of others.”
    I’m not sure why a doctor would have cause to ask such things outside of situations covered by the exception. Even the example the article gives of gray area: “What if I have an adolescent who’s been bullied, who’s not suicidal?” he said. “I don’t think, under the current bill, I’m entitled to ask him if there’s a gun in the home, or if he’s carried a gun to school, or if he’s thinking of harming someone else with a gun.” clearly would be covered under the ‘safety of others’ clause, would it not?
    Its a ridiculous law, but with holes in it big enough to drive a truck through, so is all of the fuss being made. Plus it seems unconstitutional on its face, as it infringes on the first amendment.

  2. I’d read that, but the intent of that loophole seems to be unclear, or so doctors apparently fear. It seems like doctors would be in good shape if a new parent said “yup, I just want to get my toddler checked out before I get in a day’s target practice with my collection of guns for which I have no gun safe or trigger locks and that I store on the floor of the kitchen.” But it’s a great deal less clear that a doctor could say “OK, new parents, let’s talk about safety—do you have outlet covers, a fireplace grill, and trigger locks?”

    My hope, of course, is that you’re right—that its clear unconstitutionality renders all of it moot. But my interest in this is less the reality of the law and more what it says about the NRA and Florida’s legislators.

  3. Pediatricians ask you if your child spends time in a house that is likely to still have lead paint on the walls. They ask if you routinely use a car seat. These questions are standard at every yearly well-child visit(they’re actually printed on the form you fill out before you go in). Pediatricians are in the business of trying to ensure the health and the safety of their patients. Given the number of kids that die every year from accidental shootings involving guns in the home, I would think that the NRA would SUPPORT having pediatricians ask about guns in the home and whether or not those guns are secured. I thought the NRA was all about responsible gun ownership.

  4. I just think it’s funny that you consider Alex Jones a “conservative” whereas in my circles we consider him a fucking nutbag.

    But perhaps you conflate the two. :-)

  5. I agree that this law is stupid, unconstitutional and reflects poorly on the NRA.

    To respond to Claire’s comment, I think that from the NRA’s perspective they are working with two assumptions.

    First, that affirmative responses to whether someone possesses firearms in the house will likely be recorded and entered into electronic healthcare databases from which the data could later be mined to create a list of millions of gun-owners, which would facilitate confiscation some day. Prevention of such databases being created is among the NRA’s top priorities. They don’t doubt that there are very good intentions behind the creation of such databases — they just figure that at some point in the future the data will be used by the government to know which doors to knock on to take everyone’s guns away.

    Secondly, I think that the NRA figures that a typical family physician probably knows next to nothing about firearms and is not in any way qualified to serve as a gun safety instructor. Their assumption is that an untrained person going down a checklist is not providing any particularly valuable advice or assistance.

    None of this justifies proposing a law that actually makes it illegal for the doctor to discuss gun safety with a patient. I think it would have been a better idea to establish a policy about what data can go into medical records and then offer a training program to family doctors that will qualify them to give good advice about firearms.

  6. Jackson, I think we mostly agree. (After all, I named my son Jackson, so I must be predisposed to agree with you.) I think, though, you would probably need to back up the assertion that affirmative answers “will likely be recorded and entered into electronic healthcare databases.” If they are doing so already (because pediatricians in FL are apparently already asking the guns question), that’s a problem. If pediatricians/health care providers anywhere are recording my answers to questions about whether or not my child lives in a home where someone smokes, where there is likely lead paint, and whether or not I’m putting them in a child car seat, that would be a problem too, IMO. Frankly, I doubt that’s happening, but I would think you couldn’t really assert that as “likely” without evidence. If you have the evidence that our answers on those little checklists we fill out at every well-child visit go into a database, I’d love to see it, because that would be a problem.

    Second, though the NRA might not think much of the typical family physician’s training as a gun safety instructor, I don’t think it takes training to say “are there guns in the home?” and “if so, please see your local NRA chapter for training in how to secure your guns properly” and perhaps provide statistics on accidental gun-related deaths of children. Maybe a nice brochure from the NRA/local gun safety programs. After all, the pediatrician isn’t trained in how to install a car safety seat properly, but having them ask, at every well-child visit (i.e., simply going down a checklist) can send the message to parents that this is an important health-related issue.

    I’m clearly less sympathetic to the overall aims of the NRA than (I think) you are; I figure the NRA sees the asking of this question as somehow “antigun” at its heart, equating the asking of the question with the discouragement of gun ownership itself, and is going after pediatricians for this reason, not for any of the more reasonable reasons you present.

  7. CRUD. Cecil is Claire, Claire is Cecil. Depending on which browser I use, my screen name is auto-filled in and I keep forgetting that.

  8. Anyone who doesn’t want to be in a database of gun owners shouldn’t join the NRA.
    Florida doctors should propose a law that would make it illegal to discuss first-aid at gun safety seminars unless the speaker was a licensed physician and see how the NA feels about it. Though they’d probably miss the point.

  9. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.*

    *We reserve the right to infringe upon your ability to talk about them as much as ever we choose, however.

  10. Cecil/Claire,

    I didn’t say that those responses *will* be recorded into a database. What I said was that this is the NRA’s assumption. I’m not exactly agreeing with the NRA’s position here, just trying to illustrate where they are coming from.

    Some doctors have put these checklists with notes into the patient’s file and figured it wasn’t a big deal since its a paper file kept in their office. I say *some*, because I really cannot find any evidence of this being done systematically. Just a lot of anecdotes. There has been a pretty good push going on for years to digitize medical records and there are government grants available to fund the data entry involved in digitizing old records. Once enough of these are digitized it will only make sense to have a national database that allows GPs, specialists, patients and health insurance companies to share this data quickly. And it will probably improve healthcare – especially for serious ER visits.

    With notes about lead paint, bunk beds and car seats, there is probably no danger of the information being used at some point by a future administration to come and confiscate your bunk beds and lead paint. Whereas there is a long history of databases of gun owners being used to facilitate confiscations. New York City, Germany, England, etc. You can’t fully enforce a ban without a list. This concern is the reason why no records are kept of Virginia’s criminal background checks for gun purchases.

    So this really is where these guys are coming from. I’ve read their magazines for years, am myself a former member, and am pretty well familiar with their leadership’s motives. Their basic motives make sense but I also happen to think that asking to make it a felony for the doctor to bring up a subject is ridiculous and unnecessary to accomplish their goal. All they really need is a ban on recording the patient or guardian’s responses.

    One thing that the NRA is really bad about is considering the reality of certain law-abiding gun-owners who are not NRA members. They think about legal gun-owners in terms of NRA members, who tend to be very well educated about proper handling of firearms. The fact is that there are many thousands of dipshits out there who buy a handgun, don’t take an NRA course, and stick the gun in a bedside drawer without ever really learning to use it. When those people have kids someone needs to sit down and have a talk with them. Many of those people would probably be better off not owning a weapon if they aren’t prepared to take it seriously.

  11. The fact is that there are many thousands of dipshits out there who buy a handgun, don’t take an NRA course, and stick the gun in a bedside drawer without ever really learning to use it. When those people have kids someone needs to sit down and have a talk with them.

    And if you are a parent with a fear of firearms, and your kids have never been around guns, please, please find a friend, relative or gun safety class and get your child educated. When your kid finds themselves in the company of another child playing with a gun it is important that they know the danger and what to do.

  12. What strikes me about the gun law is that there is no attempt at all that a lobbyist simply wrote the bill and handed it to the legislature to sign into law. There is nothing on the surface that states the lawmaker reviewed the law or had staff review the law. There was no vetting or even illusion that there was contemplation of what this bill may or may not mean to the general public. That’s the real tragedy here. Yeah, I know it happens all the time, but it shouldn’t.

    The NPR piece claims the NRA is representing people who are complaining about being questioned about their gun ownership. Who is complaining? Has anyone been denied gun rights do to a doctor’s questioning? People complain about crap all the time. Doesn’t mean it needs a law.

    I like the quote from the senator who is a retired dentist:

    One who did was state Sen. Alan Hays, a retired dentist from Central Florida.

    “It’s none of my business what kind of weapons, if any weapons, you have in your home,” he said. “When you come to see me, or you bring one of your children to see me, my obligation is to find out what medical things are pertinent to your particular situation.”

    When would a dentist ever need to know about guns in a patient’s home? Please don’t confuse dentist with pediatrician.

    But can someone please tell me how asking about gun safety is preventing a person from owning a gun?

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