Four Falsehoods About Doctors And Guns Pushed By Conservative Media

After President Obama announced an executive action clarifying that doctors are permitted -- but not required -- to discuss gun safety with patients, conservatives in the media trumpeted a number of falsehoods, including the baseless claim that Obama is requiring doctors to report all gun owners to law enforcement.

Does executive action by the Obama administration require doctors to ask their patients about gun ownership?

Is the Obama administration requiring doctors to report individuals suspected of being a danger to the public to law enforcement?

Does the Obama administration executive action require doctors to report all gun owners to law enforcement?

Did the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 -- also known as Obamacare -- ever prevent doctors from discussing gun safety with patients?

CLAIM: Doctors Are Now Required To Ask Patients About Guns In The Home

Rush Limbaugh: “Now Doctors Are Being Ordered, Instructed To Talk To Patients And Get Information From Them About Gun Ownership.” From a transcript of Limbaugh's January 16 show, titled on his website, “Regime Deputizes Gun-Snitch Doctors”:

LIMBAUGH: So now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership, where they are in their house, who has access to them, where the ammunition is kept.  Doctors are now, quote, unquote, “permitted,” unquote, to do this. It makes 'em deputies, agents of the state. And if they don't do it -- let's look at this the other way around.  Let's say patient X goes to a doctor. The patient's got a sore throat, runny nose.  The doctor does not ask the patient anything to do with the patient's guns. The patient then goes out and uses the guns sometime later and then the regime learns that the doctor didn't report that this patient indicated that he might be dangerous.

Look at the position this puts the doctors in. The doctors are now under the thumb of Obamacare. They had better comply. This is not a choice. Can you say hello to rapidly increasing, even higher and faster, malpractice insurance? They'd better comply. They'd better do as they're told. [The Rush Limbaugh Show1/16/13]

REALITY: Obama Executive Actions Clarifies That Doctors May Ask About Firearm Ownership At Their Own Discretion

Obama Administration: “The Affordable Care Act Does Not Prohibit Or Otherwise Regulate Communication Between Doctors And Patients, Including About Firearms.” In a report issued by the White House outlining the Obama administration's proposals to curb gun violence announced on January 16, the administration clarified that doctors are permitted to ask their patients about gun safety but did not create any mandate requiring doctors to do so:

Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients' homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms. [The White House, accessed 1/17/13

CLAIM: The Obama Administration Is Changing The Rules Concerning When Doctors Can Report Dangerous Individuals To Law Enforcement

Fox's Sean Hannity: Obama Executive Action Is “Urging Doctors And, Quote, Other Health Care Providers, To Contact Authorities If They Arbitrarily Deem That A Patient Is A Threat To Themselves Or To Others.” From the January 16 edition of Hannity on Fox News:

Limbaugh: Doctors “Must” Report Dangerous Individuals To Law Enforcement. From the January 16 edition ofThe Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Mental health professionals, therapists, if they detect that you might leave the office and go grab a gun and do something, they have to call and report you. And now doctors must do the same thing. [The Rush Limbaugh Show1/16/13

REALITY: Obama Executive Action Reiterated That Federal Law Does Not Prohibit Doctors From Reporting Individuals Who Threaten Violence To Law Enforcement

Obama Administration Clarifies “Public Confusion” Over Whether Doctors Are Prohibited From Reporting Dangerous Individuals To Law Enforcement. The White House report contains no mandate that doctors must report suspicious individuals to the authorities, and rather it clarifies that doctors are not prohibited from contacting authorities about dangerous persons:

Doctors and other mental health professionals play an important role in protecting the safety of their patients and the broader community by reporting direct and credible threats of violence to the authorities. But there is public confusion about whether federal law prohibits such reports about threats of violence. The Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits these reports in any way. [The White House, accessed 1/17/13

CLAIM: Executive Action By The Obama Administration Will Result In All Gun Owners Being Reported To The Authorities

Limbaugh: Obama's Goal Is To Ensure “What We Do Or Say” Is Reported To The Authorities. From the January 16 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Again, folks, this is pushing people's buttons on purpose. This is gonna cause some people to snap. It might. This is going after the very reasonableness and sanity of people. It seems like the goal here is to get everybody on some kind of list and to have all kinds of people that we interact with end up reporting on what we do or say to hear to the government, to the, quote, unquote, the authorities. The authorities. That's a totalitarian word, “the authorities.”

Why is Obama doing this? Why is he deliberately making people so upset? What's driving him? Don't ask me where the ACLU is. I mean, anything to get rid of guns, the ACLU's right there. Leftists are leftists, and that comes first with them. The ACLU as a civil rights organization is a bit of a laugher. They're just another branch of liberalism. [The Rush Limbaugh Show1/16/13

Fox Regular Mark Levin: Executive Actions Part Of Obama Plan For “National Database” That Includes “All Innocent Law-Abiding Citizens Who Purchase Guns.” During a January 16 appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Levin also urged Americans to “rise up” over his claim that the executive actions will “have doctors reporting their clients to the federal government”:

LEVIN: I think there are a couple things in here that are poison pills, though. The attempt to nationalize the medical profession and have doctors reporting their clients to the federal government. This is 1930s stuff. The American people need to rise up against that. The medical profession needs to say no. Also he clearly wants a national database where all innocent law-abiding citizens who purchase guns are in a national database. [Your World with Neil Cavuto1/16/13]

REALITY: There Is No Mention Of Gun Owner Data Collection In The Obama Executive Actions On Gun Violence

A Summary Of Gun Violence Prevention Measures Proposed By The Obama Administration Makes No Mention Of Requiring Doctors To Collect Information About Gun Owners. [The White House, accessed 1/17/13]

The Affordable Care Act Prohibits The Secretary Of Health And Human Services From Collecting Data On Gun Owners. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, accessed 1/17/13]

CLAIM: The Affordable Care Act Prohibits Doctors From Asking Patients About Gun Ownership

Fox News Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr.: “Explicitly [The Affordable Care Act] Says That There Cannot Be Questions About Guns In Homes.” From the January 17 edition of Fox & Friends on Fox News:

JOHNSON: But when you say to a doctor, “We're going to clarify your role under one of the executive orders,” clarify whether doctors can ask patients about their guns in homes. We know under the Obamacare Act in 2010 explicitly the statute says that there cannot be questions about guns in homes, lawful possession of firearms in wellness programs, in programs dictating how people are feeling, and questionnaires and the like. So the subtle, or not so subtle, indication in this executive order memorandum is, yeah doctors you should really be looking at the issue of lawful guns in people's homes because it is in fact a health hazard. [Fox & Friends1/17/13] Contributor AWR Hawkins: “The Government Cannot Use Doctors To Collect 'Any Information Relating To The Lawful Ownership Or Possession Of A Firearm Or Ammunition.'” [, 1/9/13]

REALITY: Firearm-Related Provisions In The Affordable Care Act Concern Prohibitions On Data Collection Of Gun Owners, Not The Doctor-Patient Relationship

Affordable Care Act Refers To Data Collection By The Secretary Of Health And Human Services, Not Doctors Conferring With Patients About Firearm Ownership. From the consolidated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010:

 '(2) LIMITATION ON DATA COLLECTION.--None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used for the collection of any information relating to--

''(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;

''(B) the lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or

''(C) the lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, accessed 1/17/13]

NBC News: “There Are Some Who Believe The Health-Care Law Outlaws Doctors From Asking Patients About Guns In Their Homes. But That's Not True.” From a January 16 article by NBC deputy political editor Domenico Montanaro:

The vagueness of some of the directives may cause controversy, but only one specific one jumps out that may get some talking -- No. 16: “Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.”

There are some who believe the health-care law outlaws doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes. But that's not true.

What it does prohibit, however, is “employers and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services from asking about gun ownership in many instances, and it prohibits HHS from collecting such data,” according to the Kaiser Health Foundation. [NBC News, 1/16/13]