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About the Wisconsin Firearms Freedom Act

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About the Wisconsin Firearms Freedom Act

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Madison, Wisconsin - The Wisconsin Firearms Freedom Act, LRB 2063/1, is a proposed bill before the Wisconsin Legislature that includes a provision that would prohibit physicians (other than psychiatrists) to discuss firearms and firearm safety with their patients. If a physician were to do so, he or she could be fined $25,000 and/or imprisoned up to 9 months.

American Family Children's Hospital, UW Hospital and Clinics, UW Medical Foundation, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, along with several hospitals and health care organizations across Wisconsin - including the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Hospital Association, Marshfield Clinic, Dean Clinic, SSM Health Care of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and others - have joined together to voice their concern about the bill.

UW Health pediatrician Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, explains, “Many other types of physicians beyond psychiatrists are involved in mental health care. The primary care or emergency room physician may be the first or only physician addressing mental health in some situations, and needs to be able to ensure the safety of their patients and others. It is also unclear if this law would prevent a physician from giving advice regarding firearms safety even if the family asks for it. Young children have been killed, or have inadvertently harmed others, by finding loaded firearms and playing with them."

The main concern surrounding LRB2063 is that the provision directly interferes in the patient-physician relationship by impeding honest communication and safety counseling that could potentially prevent injury and death. It also deviates significantly from the national model of the Firearms Freedom Act, which does not criminalize actions by physicians - in fact, it doesn't address physicians in any way. Of the eight states that have enacted the Firearms Freedom Act, none have a provision that criminalizes physicians' discussions with their patients about firearms accessibility.

“Firearms safety counseling is no different from any other safety counseling, whether it be safe sleep, bicycle helmets, or locking away household cleaners. For families with young children, we're simply asking about the presence of firearms in the home, and if so, we ask if the guns are unloaded and locked up separately from the ammunition, and make referrals for obtaining the appropriate safety device if needed," says Navsaria. "This has nothing to do with the right to own guns. It is about preventing avoidable, tragic consequences through safety practices.”

And these types of conversations are critical. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • More than 1.5 million children in the U.S. live in a home with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm
  • Approximately one in every 25 admissions to pediatric trauma centers in the U.S. is due to gunshot wounds
  • In 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 1 out of 6 injury deaths among children ages 1-19 were firearm-related, and 1 out of every 4 injury deaths for those age 15-19 were firearm related

If you would like to take action, consider contacting your legislators to voice your opinion. You can find your legislators on the State of Wisconsin website, and you can read the bill in its entirety.  You can also sign up for Speak Up for Kids to receive news and information about proposed legislation and issues that can potentially impact the health of Wisconsin’s kids.

Date Published: 06/18/2013