Last month the Missouri legislature passed a new gun law that was essentially a rewrite of a bill vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. Missouri has been in the forefront of easing restrictions on gun ownership and this law continues that trend. In 2007 a decades-old law that required state residents to apply for police permits to purchase handguns was overturned, and the result was an immediate spike in gun homicides. The new law drops the minimum age for concealed-carry from 21 to 19, allows teachers to bring concealed weapons into schools, and prohibits towns, counties or other local jurisdictions from promulgating gun laws that conflict in any way with state statutes.
According to the law's sponsor, Republican Senator Will Kraus, the law was designed to protect the rights of gun owners who had "earned" concealed-carry privileges by dint of voting or military service. Could this guy have a statement that dumb on the floor of the State Senate? Obviously he did, and he went on to say that a concealed-carry license also gives state residents the right to carry a weapon openly, again because they had "earned' this right by dint of registering to vote.
If the Missouri state legislature wants to make it easier for state residents to pretend they can keep everyone safe by walking around with a gun, I really don't care. Despite the continued mouthings of John Lott and other NRA sycophants, there is simply no credible evidence which proves that legal gun ownership reduces crime. The good news about concealed-carry is that most people who have a CCW permit actually don't bother to walk around with a gun, and while CCW on the one hand doesn't lead to less crime, it also doesn't seem to spark any great increase in crime on the other.
But what I am concerned about is another part of the law which makes Missouri the second state to gag physicians who try to ask patients about their ownership of guns. Here's what the law says: "No health care professional shall be required by law to inquire whether a patient owns or has access to a firearm." It then goes on to prohibit physicians from noting gun ownership in a patient records or disclosing the identity of a gun owner to "any government entity" unless the physician is ordered to disclose such information via court order, blah, blah, blah. The final clause of this section of the law contains the usual bromide about how gun ownership can be discussed if, in the physician's professional judgement, the patient's access to a gun might be of medical concern. But make no mistake about it: Missouri, like Florida, has now instituted a gag order against physicians talking to patients about guns.
What really concerns me about this attack on physicians is not the fact that it has taken place. Frankly, once those two idiots on the 11th Federal Circuit upheld the Florida law, I assumed that it would be replicated in state after state. The bigger problem is that I learned about Missouri closing down physician inquiry from reading the text of the Missouri law itself. When the Florida law was first passed, the Brady Campaign, the American Academy of Pediatrics and a host of other medical groups not only went immediately to court, but kept up a steady drumbeat about the issue and even now are asking that the 11th Circuit's bizarre decision be overturned. In the case of Missouri, nobody seems to have noticed that the gag-MD virus has spread.
The real reason that the gunnies want to push physicians out of the discussion about gun violence is not because physicians are opposed to guns. It's because the NRA and its allies want to disconnect gun ownership from violence to make their products more acceptable, more enjoyable, more normal for every dad and mom. After all, we agree that violence is abnormal but guns don't pose any threat at all. Isn't that right, doc?
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