A pro-gun doc on ‘Docs v. Glocks’


Lee’s note: This stellar piece of writing was sent to me by Dr. Tim Wheeler, who heads the pro-gun group Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, which is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

It was written by one of Wheeler’s DRGO members, a practicing psychiatrist in upstate New York, who Dr. Tim says “has hit the ground running.” I concur. It’s a great read.

Docs, Glocks and Patients

by Robert B. Young, MD

A three judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on July 25 that the Florida state law popularly called “Docs vs. Glocks” is indeed constitutional.  The majority ruled that it is a “legitimate regulation” of physicians’ conduct intended to protect “patient privacy and curtail abuses of the physician-patient relationship” and nothing to do with physicians’ right of free speech.  Physicians involved in the suit (backed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence) now plan to appeal for an en banc review by the entire 11th Circuit Court bench.  Given the very few cases that ever go from panel to en banc review, the issue is likely decided for Florida by the panel’s ruling.

This is a very good outcome for gun owners who prefer to share that DRGOinformation only as they wish.  There have been reports of doctors terminating care because of resistance to answering such questions.  Now Florida doctors can be fined and such questioning can be considered professional misconduct unless a direct bearing on the evaluation can be documented.  However, it’s disappointing that it came to this.  As a physician and an American, I object to the government telling me what may or may not be said between me and my patients or anyone else.

It’s never been necessary for patients to reveal all the details of their lives in order to receive medical care, nor should they.  Now, like every other bit of healthcare data, their answers can unavoidably end up in large databases in this age of electronic medical records.  Usually there is a chief concern, almost never related to risks of violence or firearm mishandling, so there is no reason to raise the question of gun ownership with the patient.  As a psychiatrist I have more cause than most doctors to worry about access to weapons by potentially dangerous patients, yet even so I rarely need to inquire.

While Florida doctors may no longer query patients routinely about gun ownership, there is no problem in providing information to all their patients regarding good safety practices in any area.   Providing everyone information is a surer approach to patient education anyway than doing so only when they reply “Yes” to a question many would rather not answer.

But why seek gun education from the American Medical Association (AMA) or other medical specialty organizations that see gun ownership mainly as a health hazard?  Expert advice from people who actually know guns, and how to use them safely and responsibly, is available from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Even the sound practice of storing guns and ammunition in separate, locked places isn’t always right if they are intended to be used for emergency protection.  Our vehicles can be deadlier than guns, but we feel safe teaching our children not to misuse them despite leaving keys unsecured on hooks and dressers.

Besides relying on laws like Florida’s, there is a direct approach to this problem: educating (by patients, too) gun-fearing doctors about the value and proper handling of firearms, and exercising the prerogative to choose compatible physicians.  Ultimately, the doctor-patient relationship takes place by mutual consent and only succeeds if patients feel respectfully and caringly attended to.  If that isn’t happening, patients should say so and then, if it doesn’t improve, switch doctors.  Patients can leave doctors for any reason. Doctors may only discharge patients for serious non-compliance with recommendations, not for owning things a doctor doesn’t like.

There actually are physicians who like and enjoy guns, and know how to handle them.  They enjoy talking to other gun-owners, patients included.

Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist in private practice in Pittsford, NY, and is a member of the NRA and of the AMA. 


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Pingback: A pro-gun doc on 'Docs v. Glocks' - The Gun Feed

  2. The only time I can agree on a physician asking if a person owns guns is if they show up at the ER with a gunshot wound. But then the Police get involved anyway, so it’s kind of a moot point. Otherwise it isn’t any business of the doctor what I own. Guns, knives, swords, blunt objects, hammers, screwdrivers or any other instrument that can be used as a weapon.
    Good for you, Doc.

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  4. rightful liberty on

    I disagree….doctors are not risk managers, and have no training or expertise outside their chosen field. They are not qualified to give general safety advice outside the field of medicine.

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  8. The main complaint I heard from the AMA and their ilk is that if they can’t ask “Do you own a gun?” it restricts their ability to care for patients who have psychiatric conditions. Which sounds logical on the face, but when you think about it…. Do you really want to be treated by a doctor who is so absolutely incompetent that they rely on a “Do you own a gun” question to determine if you’re a threat to yourself or others? If it were me and they gave me that crap when I see them, I’d sue them for grievous professional incompetence.

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