Are guns a health issue? (5×8 – 5/10/11)

Should doctors be banned about asking about guns, the Bachmann story, the story of stuff, school counselors as luxuries, the band kids and the jocks, and Minneapolis is the new gay.


How much of the doctor-patient relationship should be just between the doctor and patient?

The NRA, strong defenders of the Second Amendment, are taking aim at the First Amendment in Florida. It’s behind a bill that’s about to be signed in Florida to bar doctors from asking about whether guns in the house are locked, NPR reports.

“We take our children to pediatricians for medical care — not moral judgment, not privacy intrusions,” Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in Tallahassee says.

Pediatricians, reports, say there’s good reason to make the issue a health care issue.

A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill someone known to the family than it is to kill someone in self-defense, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And many victims of accidental gun injuries and death are under age 25, research has shown. Further, states with the most guns at home have suicide rates double rates of states with the fewest guns, and those suicides are often children.

Supporters of the law say it also prevents private information from falling into third party hands.

Are guns a health issue? Or is it none of anyone’s business?

Should doctors be banned from asking about guns in the home?survey software

In Texas, meanwhile, the governor is set to sign legislation that requires him/her to perform a sonogram on any woman seeking an abortion, providing women the opportunity to see the baby and hear its heartbeat , according to the Christian Broadcasting Network.


NPR came to Minnesota to try to learn more about Rep. Michele Bachmann. They talked to a few of the usual suspects here. But none of them mentioned the issue upon which she cut her political teeth here: The Profiles of Learning.

That’s significant because it’s what launched her. Business Week provides a more detailed background on Bachmann. She lost the election for the school board in Stillwater. It’s the only election she’s ever lost.


Environmental activist Annie Leonard is speaking Friday morning at Carleton College. She’ll preside at the weekly convocation at the school. She best known for “The Story of Stuff.”


Are alcohol and drug counselors in school a luxury we can’t afford anymore? The Pioneer Press reports that the writing is on the wall, profiling the last remaining alcohol and drug counselor in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district of more than 10,000 students.

Why are they not needed anymore? Because, apparently, they did their jobs too well:

A marked decline in alcohol and drug use over the past decade has drained some urgency from funding prevention: On the Minnesota Student Survey, almost a quarter of high school seniors report downing five drinks or more in a row in the past two weeks, down from 34 percent in 1995; 15 percent of freshmen say they smoked pot in the past year, compared with 22 percent in 1995.

Those numbers remain sobering, counselors say. In fact, pot use among seniors hasn’t budged.


What if we put as much emphasis on high school music as we put on high school sports? This…

Bonus: You just don’t get it, San Francisco. Minneapolis is the “new gay.” (may not be suitable for the workplace.)


Polls consistently show that a majority of Minnesotans oppose spending taxpayer funds on a new Vikings stadium. Even so, officials are pushing competing stadium plans for Minneapolis and Arden Hills, and the idea has bipartisan support among legislators and the governor. Today’s Question: Should public opposition to a taxpayer-financed Vikings stadium preclude building one?


We’re in the middle of a membership drive, so there are some repeats here.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: When science journalist Joshua Foer went to cover the U.S. Memory Championship, he thought he would be witnessing the “Super Bowl of savants.” What he found was that the competitors were normal people who had trained with ancient techniques that anyone could use. His new book details his own quest to become a memory champion.

Second hour: A new book delves into the current scientific quest for the secret of eternal life and traces the historic fascination with longevity. But if we could really live forever, would we want to?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Somali parents with autistic children say the Minnesota Health Department hasn’t taken their autism concerns seriously. Somalis say their community appears to have a much higher rate of autism than other ethnic groups and they suspect vaccines may be to blame. They complain that MDH keeps repeating that there’s no evidence that vaccines cause autism, so they should keep vaccinating their kids. Somalis say this is infuriating advice from an agency that has shown little interest in autism. MPR’s Lorna Benson will have the story.

According to the latest jobs report, the number of people in the U.S. who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks is still really high– 5.8 million. They make up about 43 percent of the country’s unemployed. Economists say that it used to be that the long-term unemployed were people who could afford to stay out of work without grabbing the first thing offered. But with so many people hit by layoffs, there are lots of people in that boat for reasons beyond their control. Still, there are a few groups that are most likely to be unemployed long term: minorities, older workers, and people with low education levels. Baxter looks at some of the negative implications of long-term unemployment for the individual and the broader economy. MPR’s Annie Baxter will report.

Euan Kerr says British writer Chris Cleave, author of bestselling novel “Little Bee,” heads to Cambridge, Minnesota, where the novel is the community read. We’ll hear what the community hopes to learn from reading about a Nigerian girl caught in an asylum seekers detention center in the UK

  • Andrew S

    I think it’s kind of asinine to ban doctors from talking to their patients about guns, but I also think it would be kind of asinine for my doctor to talk to me about such a thing. I think I’d tell him to mind his own business and if that made things uncomfortable I’d find another doctor.

    I do own guns in my home, and they’re not locked up unless we have children over. I fly small planes, too, but I doubt a doc would lecture me about that hobby, which is probably more likely to kill me than one of my firearms. Frankly, I don’t want to hear about my doc’s political opinions any more than I imagine he wants to hear about mine.

    This just seems like over-legislation to me.

  • T

    Asking about guns is not political, but factual. As a pediatrician this is about prevention of injuries. Look at the statistical data around preventable firearm injuries and that is why it is discussed. We also ask questions related to cleaning products, storage of chemicals in the house/garage, etc. Should we stop doing that also?

  • Calley G

    I am in graduate school, studying to be a nurse practitioner, and we are trained to ask patients about guns in the home, specifically whether they are locked, if bullets are kept separately locked, and if safety is kept on. Actually, nurses are trained to ask similar questions about physical abuse, alcohol and drug use, etc. With regards to home safety measures, evidence from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (which guides most primary care provided by MDs and NPs) shows that there isn’t enough data to show that screening patients for things like domestic violence or seatbelt use makes a difference. Does that mean we should just stop asking patients about their safety? The leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults are accidental deaths, suicides and homicide.

    I do not think health care providers are trying to weigh in politically at the bedside, but are making an effort to keep their patients safe from harm.

  • John P.

    What’s the point of asking about guns? Are they going to inform the patient they are dangerous? I doubt that will be news to anyone. It just seems like a waste of time.

  • Bob Collins

    //It just seems like a waste of time.

    Kinda like telling people to lose weight, exercise regularly, and eat healthier.

  • Greg

    Notably, in that school board election which she lost, Bachmann also shattered decades of tradition by soliciting the endorsement of the local Republican party. Previously, no school board candidates had sought or received endorsement from any party.

    Bachmann and a slate of two other candidates got the endorsement and waited until about 2 weeks before the election to announce it, via a mailing to registered Republicans in the district, hoping to get their party-line vote.

  • Greg

    Apologies, I see that aspect was indeed uncovered by the Business Week reporters.

  • Heather

    Andrew S and John P., from what I’ve read elsewhere, I’ve gathered that the law is specifically focused on questions that pediatricians ask parents. The only doctors I’ve ever had ask me questions about guns in the home were pediatricians — when we’ve taken our daughter for well-baby and well-child visits — and those doctors also asked about storage of cleaning supplies, dogs, pools, and other potential safety hazards of particular concern with children around.

    It might be a “waste of time” to question an adult in an adults-only household about all of these thngs, but children are naturally curious, and it’s part of a pediatrician’s job to be sure that parents understand how to keep a home safe for a child.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Are they also going to ask if I have my tall dresser secured to the wall so it won’t fall over? If I turn the handles of my pots inside when I’m boiling water? If my CO2 detector is working? If I have a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink? Where’s it stop here?

  • T


    If your curious on all topics to be covered in a well child visit I suggest reviewing the Bright Futures guidelines. If I am able to prevent one child from being hurt no matter what the statistics or inconvenience is, I’ll ask those questions until I no longer am a pediatrician.

    Thanks Heather for your comments…

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re Are Guns a Health Issue?:

    My favorite line in direct response to that query is the title to a song ( her first recording) by the incomparable Laurie Anderson: “It’s Not The Bullet That Kills You, It’s The Hole.”

    I’m surprised that the NRA hasn’t appropriated that one. It would make a good bumper sticker. Put it right next to “Gun Control Means Using Both Hands”.

    Then again, Anderson is an artist, and artists are almost always liberals, so you never know, she might be doing that nuance thing that those eggheads do to try to confuse us.

    Speaking of guns and the confused, now for Michelle and the culture wars.

    At the risk of proving Godwin’s Law too early in the game, seeing “Bachmann” and “Culture” in the same sentence made me

    think of the wonderful quote mis-attributed to Hermann Goering. “When ever I hear the word “culture”, I reach for my revolver.”


  • Bob Collins

    //Where’s it stop here?

    I suppose it stops when the patient chooses to go to a different doctor.

  • Andrew S.

    Exactly, Bob. I’m not sure why the legislature wants to make an issue out of this.

    Are people really that scared of saying “that’s none of your business” if it bothers them? On the other hand, is there a realistic fear of being reported to social services by your pediatrician if you answer the question in that manner? I really don’t know. It just seems stupid to ban docs from asking about it.

  • vjacobsen

    Over my few years teaching expectant parents, they in general want to keep their kids safe. And honestly, there ARE so many things they need to be aware of to keep their kids safe. It can be a lot to think about. So if it’s the pediatrician checking in on these periodically, that’s really important. As T says, if it prevents one death, it’s worth it. I’d actually be a little alarmed if parents really didn’t care at all about keeping their kids safe.

  • Andrew S

    “If it prevents one death, it’s worth it” is kind of a pet peeve of mine. If that were really true we would have to ban a lot of things and orient our society even more towards the lowest-common-denominator. If it were illegal to crab fish, nobody would die crab fishing. It would save more than one death, certainly. But we as a society accept that some people are going to die occasionally doing a dangerous job so we can enjoy some luxuries.

    The argument changes significantly when you’re talking about children, who depend on their parents to provide a safe environment, but the more safety you mandate the fewer freedoms families enjoy. Sometimes it’s worth that trade, and we as a society will try to take children away from homes we deem extremely unsafe. I honestly don’t have a problem with pediatricians talking to parents about gun safety, if they actually know what they’re talking about and aren’t using the opportunity as a soapbox. Actually, they can do that too if they want, but I’d probably be making an appointment with a different MD shortly thereafter.

  • T


    I’ve been in the care of two children accidentally shot in the home (along with near drownings, medication and cleaning product poisonings, etc). Both preventable. I’m I supposed to not take an opportunity to recommend storing guns and ammunition separately and locked?

    As a pediatrician I cannot keep every family happy and if I lose a few because I talk about prevention so be it. No soap box for me. Love my career and the families I work with.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Dr. T-

    Thank you. 🙂

  • Andrew S


    What part of “I honestly don’t have a problem with pediatricians talking to parents about gun safety” gave you trouble?

  • T


    The fact that you would leave a doctor if asked this question. No worries though. That’s your choice.

  • Andrew S

    If they’re using it as an opportunity to make a political statement then yes, I’d probably be looking for a different doctor. If I have kids and they’re asking if I have taken my children’s safety into mind then no, I probably wouldn’t get particularly ruffled.