Tallahassee, FL – Three rules loosening up on gun control passed the Florida legislature. Regan McCarthy reports one bill baring doctors from asking patients whether they own guns is the first of its kind in the country.
Doctors asking patients whether they own guns could face steep penalties including sanctions from the state's medical board. It's a question commonly asked by pediatricians, but one National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer says threatens second amendment rights.
"We pay for medical care and medical treatment not to be interrogated about guns, how many we have, where they're stored, or anything else. We don't pay for a pediatrician to talk to us about political issues."
Hammer says she thinks doctor inquiries are an effort to ban guns. She says doctors use similar safety conversations about such things as cars and swimming pools as a cover up.
"Nobody's trying to ban swimming pools, nobody's trying to ban seat belts in cars. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is supporting gun bans."
Doctor Louis St.Petery, a pediatrician and the Vice President of the Florida Pediatric society says that's simply not true.
"The second amendment rights are guaranteed in the constitution. I'm not about to touch those. And my concern is the safety of children. I think this bill is actually an invasion of our first amendment rights. It's our right and duty to discuss safety with the parents of our kids."
St.Petery says it's not his intent to encourage people to get rid of their guns. He himself is a gun-owner. He says the goal is to reduce the risk of a gun related injury or death by reminding parents firearms should be locked up with the weapon and ammunition stored in separate locations and the keys out of the child's reach. It's a message St. Petery says he'll continue endeavoring to spread.
"I don't think the law's correct and I think children will suffer as a result. And I don't think there's a reason to change, so my personal plan is not to change. Will I get in trouble? I don't know. Hopefully not."
St. Petery says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting a 70-percent increase in the number of firearm related deaths between 2000 and 2007 for children and adolescents. He says he expects the new measure to make that statistic keep going up.
Legislators passed two other gun related bills. One proposal started this session as an open carry bill but got watered down so now the bill requires guns be concealed, but still allows for circumstances in which they are accidentally exposed. Hammer says vague language in the proposal could keep the door open for what she says has been an on-going law enforcement exploitation of the rule. But Tallahassee Police Department Public Information Officer Derek Friend says officers need flexibility when deciding how to react.
"Every circumstance is so different and to be able to say when x then y We have the statutes and the constitution as our frame work, our guild lines and officers in you're talking about split second decisions, not knowing who someone is, when there's a firearm present have to be able to make decisions based on the safety of the community and their safety. So it'd be difficult to really define."
Friend says it's common for an officer to approach an individual carrying a gun simply to ensure the person is doing so legally.
A third bill backs a bill passed in 1987 requiring that local gun ordinances match up with state laws by providing consequences for entities failing to comply. The governor is expected to sign all three bills.