Doctor probes teen on guns in the home

I'd hoped to speak directly with Butterly and with the staff members about whether they asked gun questions of a tonsil patient. But Butterly and Advocate didn't return repeated email messages and phone calls asking for those interviews.

According to Insley, Butterly told her the staff began asking such questions in October. This apparently follows a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics published Oct. 18 recommending that pediatricians ask gun questions as part of patient history.

That October report cites firearms as one of the top three killers of American children and reasons that questions about availability of guns would allow medical staff to tell parents to keep guns out of their homes, or at least out of children's reach.

"Child health care professionals," the October report reads, "can and should provide effective leadership in efforts to prevent gun violence, injury and death."

No one should have unsecured guns in a home or anywhere else. We've seen too many stories of what happens when those rules aren't followed.

But Sam Insley was there for his tonsils.

Besides, the family doesn't have guns. But they do think they have rights as Americans against invasion of privacy.

"I went to the hospital because I had tonsillitis," Sam told us in an interview Tuesday evening. "I had to go in for an IV.

"Some of the questions had nothing to do with the sickness. They asked my mom to step out. They said, 'We have some questions to ask you. Some private questions,'" Sam recalled.

"They started off asking about grades — do you get good grades in school? Do you get bullied? And then they said, 'Do you have guns in the home?'"

Sam's reaction?

"I thought that was pretty out there, myself," Sam said. "The question about 'Do you have guns in the home?' That just stood out.

"Why did they need to know that? I'm in here because my tonsil is swollen and they're asking me if we own guns. I was confused and, in a way, kind of upset. Kind of like an invasion of privacy."

Mary Rita Insley, newly sensitized to gun issues, has since applied for a Firearm Owner's Identification Card. But here's what bothers her.

"If I purchase a gun, am I then supposed to train my children to lie for fear of the government knowing I have guns?" she asked.

She could have asked another question: Is Illinois part of the United States?

I'm glad she didn't. I wouldn't know what to tell her.

Twitter @John_Kass