It should, it's pretty much what has happened in most
Australian states and territories. Some jurisdictions are worse than others:
Take the ACT for example, where Jon Stanhope's government
regularly treats gun owners like criminals despite all the
academic evidence to the contrary. The latest, independent
research comes to the conclusion that the Howard
government's 1996 gun laws were a waste of resources,
no matter how apologists may try to 'gild the lily'.
The Supreme Court’s decision
overturning the D.C. handgun ban makes it more difficult for
gun banners to do their job, at least until an anti-gun
rights president is in position to appoint new justices to
the court. In the meantime, the prohibitionists are
implementing a new strategy—ban as many people as possible
from owning guns.
The strategy has been perfected in Canada, and is now moving
south of the border, perhaps coming soon to where you live.
The cornerstone of the strategy is a discretionary licensing
system for gun ownership.
Under existing federal law, there are millions of people who
are legally banned from owning guns. These bans are based on
objective criteria, such as a person having been convicted
of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, or having
been dishonorably discharged from the military.
From the gun prohibitionist viewpoint, these objective
criteria are grossly insufficient, because they still leave
the vast majority of the population able to legally possess
firearms. So in the effort to ban more people, the gun
prohibitionists set up licensing systems that intrude into
the applicant’s personal life. The purpose is to look for
something—anything—that indicates, supposedly, that the
applicant might misuse a gun.
For example, in Canada, an applicant for a gun permit must
disclose whether he has ever filed for bankruptcy, or has
lost a job. He must even provide a list of his past romantic
relationships, so that the police can contact former
Then, if his former girlfriend or ex-boss doesn’t give him a
good recommendation, his gun license will not be renewed,
and any guns he owns must be surrendered.
It’s not just a problem for Canadians. Government fishing
expeditions into one’s private life are now being used to
implement gun control right here in the United States.
Consider Nassau County, Long Island, a populous suburban
county east of New York City. The Nassau County Police
Department (NCPD) oversees the issuance of handgun licenses,
which must be renewed every five years. Last year, the NCPD
added a new question to the application:
“Have you used or still use [sic] narcotics, tranquilizers
or anti-depressant medication? If YES, record doctor’s name,
address and phone number, (attach).” A list of all relevant
medications is required.
In reality, these categories of drugs—narcotics,
tranquilizers and anti-depressants—are so broad that almost
every adult could be identified as a potentially dangerous
drug user through this question.
Pain Relievers It is difficult to conceive of anyone
honestly answering “no” to narcotics use since,
pharmacologically, “narcotics” include the Tylenol with
Codeine you might take for a toothache, or the Vicodin you
might have taken to control the post-operative pain of a
If you don’t disclose the Vicodin you took for a few days 15
years ago, you’ve falsified a government form and committed
a crime. And soon enough, gun-licensing officials may have
access to your prescription drug records.
Since June 2005, all New York pharmacists have been required
to electronically submit to the State Department
of Health all the prescriptions written for drugs like
The Nassau County Police Department is already in routine
contact with the State Office of Mental Hygiene regarding
pistol license applications. We expect they will shortly be
able to access the New York state drug database. They can
then cross-reference it with the names of registered handgun
owners to see who was prescribed medication in these
categories. Anyone who has answered incorrectly would be
open to prosecution for perjury.
Clearly there is no public safety need for the pistol
licensing bureaucracy to demand information about a woman’s
legal use of morphine when she was in a hospital 10 years
ago recovering from childbirth. But if she fails to remember
and to tell the police about it, then she puts her right to
own a handgun at risk.
When you buy a gun in a store, you must fill out the federal
Form 4473, which asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or
addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant,
narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?” If the
answer is “yes,” then of course you cannot buy the gun.
Notice that the federal inquiry is much narrower than the
version now being used in New York. The federal form asks
only about “unlawful” use or addiction.
We all know that strong pain relievers can create a feeling
of pleasure, and that some people use the drugs illegally
for that reason. But the NCPD is asking about legal use, not
Pain relievers often carry warning labels, which tell
patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery during use.
Obviously, if you are feeling drowsy because you took some
Tylenol, or just because you didn’t get enough sleep last
night, you should not go hunting or go to the target range.
But when you buy a car, or heavy machinery, the government
does not demand that you fill out a form detailing every
instance of narcotic pain reliever use in your life. The
general laws about reckless endangerment—including conduct
involving the use of cars, heavy machines and
firearms—already require that people who are impaired for
any reason not use these powerful tools.
What about someone who uses painkillers, legally, on a daily
basis? There are lots of such people. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic
pain is a leading cause of disability in this country. Many
people require narcotic drugs on a daily basis—alone, or in
combination with other medications. Do the gun control
forces have a good argument that those people shouldn’t own
Actually, the side effects of painkillers (drowsiness and
mental pleasure) tend to disappear with continued use of the
drug at the same dosage. That’s why illegal addicts (who are
looking for mental pleasure, not for physical pain relief)
take higher and higher doses.
Studies have found that the adverse effects of drowsiness or
impaired cognitive ability are very temporary. According to
a study of Finnish drivers, published in the German medical
research journal Der Schmerz in August of this year, seven
days after initiating opioid therapy, or after increasing
the dose of opioid medication, “there was no general
deterioration in patients’ driving ability.” Other medical
experts have come to similar conclusions. (Rush University
Medical Center, Nov. 25, 2007; “Opioids” entry in The Merck
Anti-Depressants Another class of red-flag drugs on the NCPD
list, anti-depressants, was found in a CDC study to be one
of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs in the United
Although anti-depressants have very beneficial effects for
the vast majority of patients, in 2007 the U.S. Food & Drug
Administration (FDA) ordered warnings that advise doctors to
closely monitor patients during the first two months of use.
A 2005 University of Nebraska Medical Center survey found
that only 7.5 percent of Nebraska doctors who prescribed
anti-depressants saw their patients weekly during the first
month of anti-depressant use. Hopefully, the new warning
labels will lead to much more proactive monitoring by
Now suppose the police call up a doctor who has been
successfully treating a 50-year-old woman for depression for
the last 18 months. From a purely medical standpoint, the
doctor would probably think, “I don’t think that there is
any notable risk from her having a handgun.”
But if the doctor has a lawyer, the lawyer may advise, “You
can’t guarantee that this woman—or, for that matter, a
patient you treat for a broken leg—positively won’t do
something wrong. And if you get 1,000 phone inquiries from
the police about your patients over the course of your
entire medical career, and just one of those patients does
something wrong, you may get sued.”
Consequently, that doctor may be very reluctant to tell
licensing authorities that the patient is no risk when it
comes to firearm possession. One Nassau County gun owner we
interviewed has lawfully used anti-depressant drugs for 10
years. When he went to renew his permit, he brought his
handguns with him, because the NCPD requires that guns be
That gun owner told us that the police made it clear to him
that they would confiscate his handguns on the spot unless
his doctor told them that he posed no problem. (A written
note from the doctor was not good enough for the police.) In
this case, the doctor came through for the patient he had
been helping for a decade, but not all doctors may be
willing to be so forthright.
Tranquilizers The final class of red-flag drugs on the
current list of potential disqualifiers is tranquilizers.
Major tranquilizers, such as Thorazine, are generally
reserved for use in the treatment of psychosis—one of the
most serious mental disorders. However, many Americans use
minor tranquilizers as a calmative to relieve anxiety and to
treat insomnia, among other conditions. For example, a
person who is afraid of flying might be prescribed a small
quantity to take when he or she has to fly for business. A
doctor might prescribe some tranquil-izers for a busy young
mother to take during periods of high stress—such as when
her mother-in-law comes to stay for a week around Christmas.
Or a man whose corporation is going through a difficult
merger might be prescribed some pills to help him sleep
Again, there is no public safety interest in the government
demanding that a person exercising his Second Amendment
rights tell a bureaucrat about the time he took a
tranquilizer two decades ago, when he had not yet overcome
his fear of airplanes.
For less than 1 percent of tranquilizer patients, the
tranquilizer has an opposite effect—causing talkativeness,
excitement or anger.
So are we simply going to say that people who use minor
tranquilizers at any time in their lives must now give up
their constitutional rights?
The Slippery Slope: The slippery slope is very steep, since
many well-known drugs that are not intended to be
psychoactive have mental side effects. Potential side
effects of Lipitor—a cholesterol-lowering drug that
accounted for a huge share of all U.S. prescriptions in
2007—include dizziness, emotional instability and lack of
Both Viagra and Cialis have vertigo and vision problems
listed among their side effects. Of course, nobody who is
feeling dizzy should go shooting, but does that mean that
someone with a Cialis prescription should forfeit the right
to defend his family against criminal attackers?
Prednisone is another drug not intended to change one’s
mental functioning, but that can have mental side effects.
It is used for a wide variety of conditions: arthritis,
ulcerative colitis, asthma, allergic reactions and many
more. Prednisone and related drugs are taken in high doses
by more than 1 million Americans annually, and lesser doses
by millions more. For many people, these drugs are often the
best treatment for serious or life-threatening illness.
The Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR)—the standard manual
that doctors use in prescribing medication—lists the
potential side effects for Prednisone as dizziness, extreme
changes in mood, changes in personality, weak muscles,
vision problems, seizures, depression, loss of contact with
reality, confusion and muscle twitching, among others.
When can we expect Prednisone to pop up on the red-flag list
of firearm disqualifiers?
It is well accepted that high testosterone levels in men are
associated with the potential for violence. Will it one day
become a requirement to test all male handgun license
applicants for testosterone levels, and then deny those who
score in the top 10 percent?
As word gets out that in Long Island (and soon, perhaps, in
other places) your confidential medical records will not be
confidential if you choose to exercise your Second Amendment
rights, it’s likely that fewer people will seek medical care
and obtain the prescription drugs they need. The result
could be a less healthy society.
“Cracking down” on law-abiding gun owners who lawfully use
prescription drugs under a doctor’s guidance is just one
more way in which excessive gun control harms public health.
The broader issue, of course, is not just prescription
drugs. It is that someone who simply wants to exercise his
or her constitutional right to possess a gun in his or her
own home is being required to give up all medical
Under our legal system, the doctor-patient privilege is one
of the very strongest zones of legal confidentiality. As gun
control forces succeed with their invasion of this private
zone, the follow-up invasion of other private zones will
then become relatively easy. There are few legal protections
for the privacy of employment records, and no legal
protections for confidentiality about one’s past romances.
Will these be next?
Copyright 2008, National Rifle
Association of America, Institute for Legislative
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