Posted: Oct 1, 2013 9:46 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News - Helena
HELENA - Starting Tuesday a new Montana law allows gun owners more privacy when seeking medical care.
It may be more common than you realize that health care practitioners would ask whether a patient owns or has access to a firearm.
A physician at the St. Peter's ER, Dr. Andy Coil said, "I ask people a lot of the time if they have access to firearms and the people that I ask if they have access to firearms are the people that I'm worried about using them in an improper way. It's not general people that come in for colds or flus, or broken bones."
Starting October 1st, under Montana law, practitioners are not allowed to ask about gun ownership as a condition of giving treatment.
Dan Hawkins on the executive board of the Montana Shooting Sports Association says their organization strongly encouraged the legislation.
"Not just the aspect of refusal of care, but somehow it's conditioned upon their willingness to provide information about exercising their civil rights," Hawkins said.
Hawkins likens the question to a doctor asking a patient if they exercise their first amendment rights by protesting on the stairs of the Capitol steps.
The new law does not prohibit medical practitioners from just asking but Dr. Coil said, "If they refuse to answer that question, they can do that. I still treat them the same."
Hawkins will say he understands why in mental health situations, doctors would want to know this information.
"But I don't think it is a blanket need of physicians, of mental care providers, of health facilities to have that information," Hawkins said.
"It does make me feel better about taking care of them knowing if they have proper plans of how to safely take care of their weapons," Dr. Coil adds.
The law allows practitioners and facilities to ask if a patient has a firearm present at the time of treatment and that will likely not change.