Physicians, gun advocates tangle over Florida law

The Miami HeraldJuly 24, 2011 

Four years ago, an experienced gun owner in Pembroke Pines named Reynaldo Gonzalez made an exception he will forever regret.

His 15-year-old daughter, Yamel Trigo, begged to show off his guns, usually locked away except when Gonzalez went to the range, to a visiting teenage cousin. Out came the guns and a camera, Yamel recalls. The cousin posed with a .22-caliber rifle, which Yamel’s dad thought was unloaded.

The cousin put her finger on the trigger — something safety-minded gun owners know never to do unless you mean to fire. The rifle went off. The bullet hit Yamel in the neck and left her a quadriplegic.

Cases like Yamel’s in which kids are shot accidentally are hardly new, but now they’re at the core of an unusual legal battle pitting a portion of the medical profession against some powerful gun-rights advocates and the state of Florida.

At issue is a new state law, the first of its kind in the nation, that forbids licensed healthcare workers from asking patients about gun ownership and gun safety absent compelling reasons. Supporters, including the National Rifle Association, say the law was needed to protect gun owners’ privacy and stop doctors from “harassing’’ patients on the subject.

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