The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has ruled a Florida law restricting what doctors can tell patients about gun ownership to be constitutional on Friday. The court ruled this law legitimately regulates professional conduct and does not regulate professional conduct and does not regulate the doctor’s first amendment free speech rights.
This ruling by the Atlanta court overturned a previous decision that declared the law unconstitutional. There is still an injunction blocking enforcement of the 2011 law, which has become popularly known as “Docs vs. Glocks.” It was challenged by organizations representing over 10,000 state health care providers, most notably the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
According to U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat, “The act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or recordkeeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.” Doctors who break this law could receive a fine and lose their licenses.
Florida’s legislature adopted the Firearm Owner’s Privacy Act after an Ocala couple complained a doctor asked them if gun related questions. The couple said they refused to answer and the doctor refused to see them again. The law was signed by Gov. Rick Scott, and prohibits doctors from asking patients about their ownership or recording that information in medical records unless there is a medical reason.
U.S. Circuit Judge Charles Wilson did not agree with the ruling and called the law an infringement of first amendment rights. She felt the act significantly chills doctors from expressing their views and their ability to provide information to patients regarding guns. “Regardless of whether we agreed with the message conveyed by doctors to patients about firearms, I think it is perfectly clear that doctors have a First Amendment right to convey that message.”
Marion Hammer, a National Rifle Association lobbyist in Florida and former president of the national organization, disagrees the law limits First Amendment rights of doctors.
“The intent [of the law] is to protect the privacy of firearm owners and to stop the political interrogation of gun owners and the children of gun owners when they seek medical care,” Hammer said.
The ruling is a significant defeat for the gun control lobby and its supporters. . Executive Director of the NRA, Chris Cox, welcomed the ruling. “Every gun owner in Florida and across the country is grateful for this common sense ruling. It is not a physician’s business, whether his or her patient chooses to exercise their fundamental, individual right to own a firearm.
In the opinion, the court ruled, “In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct–which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy–the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters.”