POLITICS
02/27/2013 03:19 pm ET Updated Feb 27, 2013

Doctors In Kansas Can Still Ask Patients About Gun Ownership After Legislators Remove Ban From Bill

A Republican-controlled committee in the Kansas House of Representatives has removed a provision from legislation that would ban doctors from asking about gun ownership. The provision was taken out of legislation that would exempt all guns made in Kansas that stay in the state from being covered by federal gun laws.

The Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee passed the Second Amendment Protection Act Wednesday morning after stripping a provision which would prohibit all doctors, except for psychiatrists, from asking about gun ownership.

Supporters of the provision have said that doctors do not have the right to ask the question. Opponents of the provision, who won out, said that the idea violates the First Amendment rights of doctors and that the question is needed as part of routine safety consultations with parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises doctors to ask the question about guns as part of a series of questions on child safety issues. Other questions typically include ones about fencing around pools and staircase gates.

"We felt [the provision] had too many issues with it to continue to the floor," state Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina), a committee member who is co-sponsoring the bill, told The Huffington Post. "We did not want the remainder of the bill imperiled due to these issues."

Claeys said the committee unanimously passed the bill after taking out the doctor provision, a move that had the support of the bill's chief sponsor, state Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee). Three Republican committee members -- Travis Couture-Lovelady of Palco, Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee and Reid Petty of Liberal -- voted against taking out the provision but for the bill. Claeys said that while it is possible that a separate bill on the doctor issue could be filed, it would likely not come until 2014 because it is already late in the annual legislative session.

Oklahoma lawmakers are currently considering separate bills regarding federal gun laws for weapons made in the state and doctors asking about gun ownership. Missouri lawmakers are also considering a bill that would end federal regulation of guns made in that state.

Florida lawmakers passed a similar ban in 2011 on doctors asking about gun ownership. The ban was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in 2012 on First Amendment grounds.

Claeys said one concern with doctors' questioning is that medical professionals could keep records of gun ownership and then share that list with the federal government. State Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), a retired physician opposed to the bill, said earlier this month that the questioning guidelines put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics help promote safety, and are not a way to find out who owns guns.

"There are people who have those concerns," Claeys said. "After the comments made by the Obama administration, you have to wonder."

While the Kansas bill has attracted bipartisan support, with four Democrats among the over 50 co-sponsors, Democrats also helped take the doctor provision out of the potential legislation.

State Rep. Emily Perry (D-Mission), a committee member, told HuffPost that she is "very pleased" that the language was removed. Perry, a Second Amendment supporter, did note that she has "concerns with potential conflicts with the Supremacy Clause" for the remaining part of the bill.

Claeys said that he plans to support the final bill on the House floor. He stressed that it is a narrow bill and said that he does not think there are issues with constitutionality since the legislation only covers guns made in one state. He noted that the bill could even help the Kansas economy by luring gun manufacturers to the state from states with more restrictive gun laws.

Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) has made a similar argument.

Bollier told HuffPost on Wednesday that while she "couldn't be happier' that the doctor provision was removed from the bill, she is concerned that the bill will now have a better shot of passing in the Legislature. The representative expressed concern about Kansas-made guns being easy to obtain when they are not subject to federal regulations.

"My concern is that any terrorist organization would love to have the opportunity to not follow any regulations," she said. "There is no way that you could keep the guns here once you don't follow gun regulations. How would we do that, unless you wall us off and check? We don't have a border."

Claeys said he sees support for guns made in Kansas as a good long-term investment.

"It would be cool to buy a gun saying 'Made in Kansas' as a collectable," he said.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to reflect that the bill passed unanimously, and the amendment to remove the provision banning doctors from asking about gun ownership received three dissenting votes.

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