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Gun Ownership Bill Would Prevent Doctors From Asking About Weapons In Home

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The Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.
The Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

More than 50 state legislators in Kansas -- including four Democrats -- have co-sponsored a gun bill that would, among other things, prohibit most doctors from asking about gun ownership.

The proposed medical ban, which includes pediatricians who currently can ask parents about gun ownership to promote home safety, is included in legislation that would exempt guns manufactured in Kansas from federal gun laws.

The Kansas proposal comes a year after a federal judge in Florida struck down a similar ban on doctors, based on free speech.

"To have a pediatrician or orthodontist ask is inappropriate," state Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina), a co-sponsor, told The Huffington Post. "Since we are focusing on mental health, it makes sense for a psychiatrist or a psychologist."

The American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated for allowing pediatricians to ask about gun ownership. Gun questions are part of a series that includes questions about staircase gates, pool safety and the location of poison in the home; the purpose is to allow doctors to provide safety tips to parents in order to prevent accidents.

State Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), a retired physician said since accidents are the leading cause of death for children, such questioning is needed to prevent them from hurting themselves.

But Claeys said while he understands the need for safety, the Second Amendment also plays a role. "Pools and staircases are not contained in our Constitution," Claeys said. "This is a fundamental right people have. Asking questions of people over a constitutional right crosses a line."

Bollier, a moderate Republican who is opposing the legislation, said she has heard concerns from constituents about doctors reporting gun ownership information back to President Barack Obama so that the guns could be seized. She said federal law does not require Obama to be informed about gun ownership.

Bollier also noted that not all mentally ill people see psychiatrists, so the questions allow for other doctors to gauge whether the person could be a danger.

The bill's main thrust, which is to prevent new federal gun laws from being enforced on all Kansas-made guns and ammunition, differs from others states' similar proposals by only applying to guns manufactured in the state. Advocates say the bill would prevent interstate commerce laws from applying.

The Kansas legislation also has four Democrats -- Reps. Jerry Henry of Atchison, Jan Pauls of Hutchison, Tom Sawyer of Wichita and Brandon Whipple of Wichita -- as co-sponsors. Pauls told HuffPost that she is co-sponsoring the legislation because constituents expressed concern over the new federal gun laws. The ability of doctors to ask about gun ownership, surprised her and concerned her constituents, she said.

"It is a clear statement of how people feel about the second amendment in Kansas," Pauls told HuffPost about the bill.

Claeys called the bill "symbolic," saying it would allow legislators to "take a stand." He said he prefers gun-related legislation over executive orders.

Henry, Sawyer and Whipple did not return calls for comment. The four Democrats range the political spectrum. Whipple, who touted bipartisanship in his 2012 campaign, last week led the Democratic fight against anti-union legislation. Henry is known to be more conservative. Sawyer was the party's 1998 nominee for governor after defeating Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps in a primary. Pauls is known for being the state's leading anti-gay Democrat.

"If is gets passed, there may be challenges and we'll see how the courts rule," Pauls told HuffPost.

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