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By Robert B. Young, MD

In a bizarre announcement last Thursday, the City of Boston has decided that physicians should now be required to ask all patients about their gun ownership. Mayor Martin J. Walsh wants the state of Massachusetts to legislate this in the 2019 session. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said “This is a great way for the medical field to help identify any red-flag issues…It’s to put another tool in the physician’s belt to help out the victims.”

The claim is that this would “help identify ways to save lives”, according to Gross. No — as has been abundantly proven, guns in America save lives overall.

The purpose would be to identify people at risk of suicide, domestic violence, or “child access” although the information would not be intended to help solve crime. The act would not require doctors to note gun ownership in patient records.

Let’s parse this, because there is literally nothing right about it:

  • Identifying gun ownership in itself reveals nothing about people at risk for suicide, domestic violence or anything else. Those are the “red-flag” issues to tease out; risk may be greater with guns at home, but those guns did not create the risk.
  • Guns in the home do not create victims.
  • The “tool” of inquiring about potential harm with weapons has always existed, but must be used wisely and selectively.
  • Legally requiring gun ownership to be determined ensures that everyone’s records will include that status, disclaimers to the contrary. How else can the state know the law is being obeyed?
  • Most worrisome, when government requires documentation, when will government decide to use it and how? If not to solve crime, then for what?

Physicians are already generally, and inappropriately, encouraged by their professional associations to ask patients about gun ownership. Then they are to use that as a springboard to advise owners they would be safer without guns, or at least to lock up firearms in one room and all ammunition separately in another part of the house.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership has long fought against those insulting, paternalistic directives. Legal, responsible gun ownership makes families safer, and there are a variety of ways to keep firearms safely depending on individual circumstances. The very act of physicians or staff quizzing people about that is an ethical violation of the special doctor-patient relationship. It contaminates the healing role with politics and misinformation.

Documenting this has become standard, to the extent that now virtually every electronic medical record includes fields for gun ownership in its routine patient data. If answered, the information actually does go into your “permanent record.”

Most physicians want nothing to do with such distractions from their proper role treating the medical problems patients present. The only reason to ask about weapons is when indications of potential danger to self or others are identified.

That is extremely rare in most medical practices—even for psychiatrists, it is not typical . When it does occur, all means of doing harm have to be addressed, family must be involved, and occasionally it is necessary to commit an ill patient for more definitive psychiatric treatment until the risk is past.

This is just another wedge in the door by progressive urban politicians toward stigmatizing gun ownership. If it makes gun owners think twice about having them, so much the better in these circles.

If there is any glimmer of light in this, it may be because physicians fiercely resist anyone telling them how to practice. Despite having to follow mandates from insurers, hospitals, and states, this profession jealously guards its right to determine what constitutes professional practice. That was one (misguided) basis for organized medicine’s resistance to Florida’s Firearms Owner Privacy Act which forbade inquiries into gun ownership without clinical reason (i.e., potential dangerousness).

The president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, undoubtedly a proponent of the anti-gun party line in medicine, didn’t really endorse the proposal. Dr. Alain A. Chaoui said “when appropriate, a physician, as part of a detailed conversation about medical history, has a right and responsibility to speak with patients about gun ownership, storage, and safety.” He left out the part limiting that to when potential danger is implied, but still asserted the physician’s “right and responsibility.”

We’ll see whether medical societies stay that course or if it evolves into sheep-like collaboration with government diktat.

This is Trouble, my friends, with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Boston. The city once known as the Cradle of Liberty is becoming the oppressor.


DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. I guess doctors in Boston nevertreated a defenseless victim of beatings or stabbings. A gun in the hand is worth all the good will someone can muster.

  2. “The act would not require doctors to note gun ownership in patient records.”

    But the implication is that they should, other wise why ask?

    Another small step in the “progress” to full gun confiscation. Think “Progressives”.

    • Doctors should be required to report the answer, verbatim. Mine would be “fuck you!”, every time I was asked.

        • But could you be refused health care from that provider in the future?

          Personally, I would be more inclined to ask the Dr. extremely personal, embarrassing, and inappropriate questions prior to answering their question(s).

          None of my GD business, just like your questions. :^)

        • Indeed. Under the single-payer system they will be virtual employees of the state. It’s a minor thing to bring them in the fold and grant them inquisitive authority.

  3. Why, the HIPA law would have to be changed in order to use the information for anything other than the doctor and patient talking about the topic. And HIPA is federal. The ACLU should step in at any attempt to change it.

    • What many, maybe most, people don’t realize is HIPAA explicitly allows government use of medical records. If it’s in there, they can get to it, for whatever purposes they want.

      • I remember when in the service some persons official records would contain a side note with the notice that it was not part of the official record, so, there are those who have their ways to communicate.

    • Hippa is actually just a way to consolidate and streamline access to a persons medical history. When working at departments in the past, the employees are lied to, making them believe it’s about patient privacy, then the officers make a huge neurotic deal about obsessing over meeting and implementing hippa standards. It’s not for defending citizens privacy, it’s for giving special access to people’s personal information to you-know-who. All apart of the control paradigm, just like everything else. Read the language of the act.

  4. Well, the highest rates of suicide are among LGBT youth. So why not “require” doctors to ask about LGBT status, if one’s goal is preventing suicide?

    The answer of course is that this is about guns, not about individual risk or safety. Boston wants some database, like the one that Dinkins used in NYC to send out “turn them in” letters.

    • Speaking of LGBT youth, are Dr. required to ask about and log unprotected anal sex?

      When I lived in the bay area, effectively HIV ground zero, I was NEVER asked any such questions.

      Consenting adults, behind closed doors, SAFER sex, whatever, fine. Get down on it. However, according to the CDC:

      “In 2016, youth aged 13 to 24a made up 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Most (81%) of those new diagnoses occurred among young gay and bisexual men.”

      More stats here:

      There is more death and collateral damage in that than involving firearms. If we acted as irresponsible with firearms as some do with their junk, there really would be blood in the streets.

      And asking that question actually IS a health related issue.

      • So, that’s not actually true. In 2014 (as recent as I could find), there ~6,700 deaths in the US due to HIV and 11,000 died by firearm homicide and another 460 by accident. But you know, whatever.

        • OK, But HIV is an actual virus (says it right in the name), whereas a firearm is an inanimate object that will not do anything unless an outside force is applied to it. So, you know medical it up on a virus and FO about guns.

  5. Well, in that capacity, the Doctors become agents of the state. Nothing wrong with invoking the 5th Amendment. But for practical purposes, the correct thing to do, under all circumstances, always, is just to lie and deny gun ownership. And yes, even if you’ve known your doctors for 25years and perhaps a friends. Why? Because you aren’t friends with all of the staff with access to your records. And, if this becomes law, then law enforcement can get access to the records.

  6. They can ask, but I wouldn’t say anything or would just lie.

    To counter it you could ask the doc if he has a home security system and what brand he has.

    • Or, perhaps demonstrate significant interest in how much malpractice insurance he has, and with what company!

  7. Anyone stupid enough to answer that question in the affirmative deserves whatever harassment they get. I will withhold my outrage for when they make it a felony to lie to your doctor.

    • Agree. any question of this sort from an MD should be answered with “none of your business”. colorful metaphor between words “your” and “business” optional. I suspect doctors will soon dread asking this and most will realize this is political in nature and leads to all sorts of heated arguments and snarky responses. I can see a “I have to ask this, answer as you will…” preambles.

      If they were serious about children’s lives they would have all sorts of mandatory questions…do you own a pool, jacuzzi, live on a busy street, have your outlets up to code in your house, lead testing house, etc.

      • The problem with your approach is that any answer other than “no” will be interpreted as “yes”. Very few if any non-POTG will say anything but no.

        It’s not worth having a fight over at the doctor’s office. Let him ask the question, and give him the “correct” answer. It doesn’t have to be the honest answer.

      • How well do you know the people who do his paperwork?

        I don’t know exactly what my businesses bank account balances are, but my book keeper does.

        • I know them pretty well. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not hiding. POTG can learn a lot from the Queer community: Silence=Death

  8. Doctors ate more dangerous than firearms. 250,000 deaths each year due to malpractice or incompetence. You are more likely to die in a hospital than on a firing range.

  9. They can ask, and I can say no. Or, I can tell them about the horrible boating accident that I had a few years ago.

  10. Good comment above about lying to doctors(state gophers) becoming a felony. Good bet if you’re a betting person.

  11. My primary care Dr went on a hunt/fish trip to Africa last year. My orthopedist showed his Christmas pics of his 7 y.o. daughter with her Red Rider BB gun and telling stories of him blowing up balloons for her to shoot.
    Should I turn them in?

    • Maybe your Dr. did, but if this becomes law, he will have to answer the police questions.
      And, yes, anyone in that office will have access to your records, anyone.

  12. There you go,,, Mass. with another great idea (not), there must be something in the water they all drink there.,fake Indians , a Ex governor who claims to be a republican (R I N O Romney), taxes up the ying yang, etc…

    • Fluoride…. Hitler used it because it dumbs people down.
      That is why I drink spring water: gas, oil, and road kill run-offs and all……

  13. Doctor ask me that question I will walk out of the appointment and send him a bill for my time.

  14. There are things I don’t tell staff. When Doc and I talk it is understood that certain things are “not to be spoken of”. 24 years with same doc. helps.

  15. Dr: So, how many guns do you own?

    Me: How is that relevant to our meeting today to discuss my ingrown toenail?

    Dr: …

    Me: …

    Now what, Boston?

  16. As an Official Old Guy, I have lots of doctors. Ironically, my urologist is pro-gun while my nephrologist is anti-gun. Interesting that two guys at opposite ends of the same plumbing can have contradictory opinions, no?

    Anyway, my anti-gun kidney guy wanted to tell me about guns. So I said that I was open to such a conversation, but first I wanted to tell him how to do kidney surgery.

  17. Fine ask me about my guns, though given how little time I seem to get with some drs, maybe we should discuss my ailment and appropriate treatment and potential side effects.

    I get that maybe there are people that could benefit from becoming informed on safe gun storage and the options therein, and if you dr is actually knowledgeable, maybe someone learns something and a potential bad thing is averted.

    However, if you don’t ask me about how I store potential poisons, gasoline, and kitchen knives as well, you are a first class richard and an anti-gun shill who doesn’t care about anyone’s safety.

  18. Why not order drs. to ask political affiliation? After all, most criminals are democrats; particularly the violent ones. Then we can round them up and save society!

  19. How about those two Boston doctors who were murdered last year, tied-up and throats slashed, by an illegal alien from West Africa? Oh, yeah, that’s not PC. I wouldn’t tell anyone that doesn’t really need to know. I don’t tell my doctor, my priest or Rabbi, my neighbors, my garbage man, my gardener, my mailman, etc. This is extremely dangerous given the 21st century craze of no due process for gun owners.

  20. My Doctor’s office already asks that question on their pre-visit form.

    “I don’t answer non-medical questions.” Is what I put down.

  21. Hey I’ve been asked about funz er guns. Wanted to know about mental illness…what’s a gun?!? This is the rabbit hole of red flag confiscation. Ironic ain’t it coming from Massachusetts?😩

  22. I’ve said before that I can think of one area where the doctor might have a legitimate reason to even bring up guns, with new parents, and only in terms of “childproofing” things in a way that a new parent, overwhelmed as they might be could overlook.

    Past that, unless you show up with a GSW I can’t see how it’s remotely relevant. Unless of course the government wants them to discuss “all possibly dangerous items and circumstances that could exist or arrise” which is just stupid.

    • Hey, the doctor doesn’t even have to ask. He can just supply a pamphlet to new parents that addresses the issue, along with the other pamphlets about childproofing a home. The parents can then decide its relevance to their circumstance..

      • I said “might”, as in, they ask questions so the doc provides general answers.

        Besides, a pamphlet? Whi do you think is going to produce that and what’s it going to say? How much do you want to be it will say something like “The AMA recommends removing all firearms from the home until the child reaches age X. Even after this time firearms are dangerous and increase the risks of suicide and murder within the home. New parents should give serious thought to permanently removing any and all firearms from the home”?

        I’d bet a lot on that.

  23. Doctor: Do you own guns?
    Me: Not one! I had a rifle when I was a kid but I don’t have it anymore.

    In almost 30 years, my Dr. has never asked & I never said. My dentist has “American Rifleman” delivered right to the office where it sits with all the other “People” type magazines.

  24. Having a doctor ask me about guns is about as pertinent as me asking a politician about honesty.

    Not relevant.

    Nice try though Lefties trying to introduce a red flag system and trying to legitimize it with a “professional” (though doctors don’t have expertise in this subject).

    A psychologist maybe if they specialized in suicide prevention and risk analysis.

    But a doctor? They have enough to worry about with malpractice.

    The only thing that needs to be diagnosed is the treasonous and obvious power grab and civilian disarmament agenda taking place.

    Time to start deporting treasonous people to the supposed utopia of their choice well outside the brand new border wall.

  25. Of course, any snarky negative reply or silence would likely be interpreted as an affirmative answer (and possibly recorded as such).

    So, you either terminate the relationship (another assumed answer in the affirmative, which might be recorded as you walk out)…. or you very matter-of-factly answer (lie) by saying, “No.”

    You could act it up a bit and say, “Ohmygosh, no! I would never allow a gun in my house. I even have one of those gun-buster signs by my door!” 😉

  26. My first thought was to reply “None of your business” , But the concerned doctor might record that as “suspicious”. So actually, to quote Nancy Reagan,”Just say NO”!

  27. Assuming that a physician was willing to go along with this foolishness, does this proposed legislation require the patient to answer, truthfully or otherwise? This aspect strikes me as curious.

  28. At some point it will be illegal to lie your doctor, for public safety of course. Probably throw in reduction/restriction of public benefits, soon we will all depend on them.

      • When the penalties are harsh let’s see how many people forget. Like these clowns who ignore the coming gun confiscation by nervously joking about losing their guns in a boating accident…..

  29. Recently I overheard a social worker discussing a patient discharge over the phone. She asked if there were guns in the home. When she hung up I asked why she would ask that. She confidently said that the patient had been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts.
    At first this seemed reasonable. But then I stepped in it by asking “what about knives, it’s pretty easy to slit a wrist ? What about electrical devices (knock a blow drier into the bathtub), what about drugs, pretty easy to kill yourself with a big bottle of Tylenol, what about a car and a garage ?”
    By now she was upset but I asked one more question. If he is at such risk for suicide that he cannot have a gun in the house, should he be allowed to go home at all ? It’s not that hard to kill yourself even without a gun.
    A reasonable person would conclude”you make a good point” but it must be worse to comit suicide with a gun than any other method because she said nothing of the sort.
    No logic penetrates these people. We will someday have to fight for our rights.

  30. Putting the horse before the cart.
    Folks, America is being legislated out of existence, we have to stop electing people like there has been and start voting in people who can abide by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution….. Lets stop the King George BS!

  31. Why aren’t the lefty Dr’s screaming about their 1st Amendment rights over this?? Like they did in Fla when the legislature passed the law that kept them from recording any answers from you about that question. (they were NOT forbidden to discuss guns OR gun safety with patients, contrary to what big media and the lying doctors lead you to believe)

    So…. crickets?

  32. And you reply with: non of your business…next
    Unless they happen to like guns, too…then by all means chat away…

    • I’d answer with “It’s according to what you mean by a gun. Does my great grandpop’s 3-band Enfield count?”

      Most liberal doctors would ask what a 3-band Enfield was. At that point you can change the conversation to the Civil War.

      Change the subject and answer any questions with another question like a good politician.

  33. This is the kind of leftist stupidity that will only cost lives.

    It’s hard enough to get some people to go to the doctor for regular check-ups, this will only provide additional motivation for them to avoid going to the doctor.

    I hope it costs doctors enough customers that they feel it where it hurts (in the wallet).

  34. …Unfortunately for THEM ,GOAL. Org stated back during the Obama Era that gun owners DON’T have to comply…Futhermore, in M Assachusetts, Only a Safety Range Officer/or Firearms training personnel certified by the Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police can talk or discuss or provide any such training information….The Anti-Pro2@ crowd’s own law…..See GOAL.ORG

  35. WE THE PEOPLE new what was coming…We were all warned…But everyone said, “Never! Not In America!” Well, the NWO is here! Are we going to give THEM a fight to save America! Time to stand our ground, “resist and fight back!”

  36. I’m an orthopedic surgeon who takes ER call at a busy Level 2 hospital. In 27 plus years of practice the only time I have asked a patient about gun safety was when I was called to see a guy who kept a loaded pistol next to his bed in a house with young children. He told me every day when he got home from work he would pick up the gun and “practice” with it. Until he accidentally shot himself in the knee In the middle of the night. I reviewed the 4 rules of gun safety rather harshly and told him to get a gun safe.

  37. Connecticut has this already implemented this “procedure”. I felt violated and mentally molested… I didn’t even own a firearm at the time when asked. Since then I’ve left but landed in California….out of the frying pan and into the fire.

  38. the correct response would to say no.
    i do understand though if a guy went to the dr complaining about depression or was being treated for paranoia or some other mental illness it would be a very good idea to find out if the patient had access to firearms.
    i really dont think the law requiring drs to ask is a good idea but for the example i listed above i dont think the florida law prohibiting drs from asking is a good idea either.
    let drs practise medicine, keep politicians and the( d e a ) out of the drs office and while your at it prohibit the insurance companies from telling the drs how to practice medicine as well

  39. True story: Few years back needed to find new GP. First appointment with doctor that had been recommended to me. As part of general intake asked a bunch of health-related questions, as one would expect. Then he asked me if I have any firearms in my residence. I asked him back “Are you able to sexually satisfy your wife? Or are you worried that she will seek that sort of gratification from another man?” He looks up a little flabbergasted trying to put together a response “Oh I’m sorry, I thought this was the part of the exam where we ask each other extremely personal questions that have nothing to do with why I’m here”. He started to explain how as my doctor he needed a holistic view of my health and risk factors, when I informed him that no he did not, as he was not my doctor.

    They tried sending me a bill for that exam too. Heh.

  40. I guess I have a different perspective here.

    What power, exactly, does the City of Boston (or their busybody mayor) have to tell MD’s how to practice? The medical licensing boards for doctors, nurses, EMT’s/medics, etc are all at a state level, aren’t they?

    OK, so let’s say some MD’s/DO’s don’t toe the mayor’s agenda. What the city of Boston going to do? Write up a ticket for “not asking a patient X!” I don’t see how this is going to work in actual practice.

    Here’s the one time I had to deal with a patient and guns in my work as a EMT.

    We asked the patient “are you taking any medications?” Patient indicates a plastic basket full (I mean overflowing) with pill bottles. Turns out the patient is taking not a couple of meds, but over a dozen – at the same time. Polypharmacy-a-go-go as it were…

    I pick up the basket and it feels too heavy. I kinda shake the basket a little, and it feels like there’s something pretty dense at the bottom of 7″ of pill bottles.

    There was. A revolver and a small .25 ACP pistol. Good thing I spotted those, because in those situations where the patient doesn’t have a medication list, ready to go to the ER, we just grab up all the pill bottles and take them in. The ER would have been seriously PO’d if we’d brought in a couple of heaters at the bottom of the pile of meds…

    We unloaded the two handguns and left them in the patient’s bedside drawer for when they got back home.

  41. If you say no and the Doctor thinks your lying the” Powers That Be” can look any time at your buying history with credit cards and find out in a minute if you have guns. They can also find out in a minute if you ever subscribed to a gun magazine, joined a pro-gun organization, donated money to a pro-gun organization, have a concealed carry permit, went through a back ground check, logged on to a chat room like this one or even attended a gun show because in the past the Powers That Be have been caught photographing license plate numbers and today they could claim they were looking for terrorists (meaning you because you own guns). Gun stores are another great place to photograph license plate numbers as well as well as shooting events like trap or skeet or handgun matches or rifle matches. Finding out if you have guns is easy and confiscating them as easy as taking candy from a baby if the baby wants to go one living that is.

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