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Florida’s “Docs vs. Glocks” Bill Wins Federal Appeals Court Approval in 2-1 Ruling

| July 25, 2014

Don't ask. (Lou Messing)

Don’t ask. (Lou Messing)

A federal appeals court has upheld the state’s controversial “docs vs. glocks” bill, overturning an earlier court ruling that had blocked part of the law from being enforced.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state Legislature had the right to pass the law, which includes provisions restricting doctors and other medical providers from asking questions about gun ownership during medical visits.

“In order to protect patients, physicians have for millennia been subject to codes of conduct that define the practice of good medicine and affirm the responsibility physicians bear,” Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote. “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.”

The majority found that the National Rifle Association-backed law, known as the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, “has only an incidental effect on physicians’ speech.”

The appeals court rejected a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke, who ruled last year that the law was built largely on anecdotal evidence, and that legislators couldn’t prove that gun rights would be jeopardized or that patients who own firearms might face discrimination.

Supporters of the 2011 law say doctors might turn away patients who own guns or who wouldn’t answer questions about whether they did. Critics argue that doctors need to know what’s in a patient’s home so they can offer safety advice.
In a sharp dissent significantly longer than the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Charles Wilson said the law was an unconstitutional “gag order” that infringes on doctors’ rights.

“The holding reached today is unprecedented, as it essentially says that all licensed professionals have no First Amendment rights when they are speaking to their clients or patients in private,” Wilson said. “This in turn says that patients have no First Amendment right to receive information from licensed professionals — a frightening prospect.”

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the law, said in a statement that his organization was “astounded” by the ruling.

“Today’s decision will keep doctors from asking reasonable questions and providing advice that could very well save lives,” Simon said. “We expect the doctors who filed this case to appeal this decision and that this decision will ultimately be overturned.”

The doctors could seek a full appellate court review or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

Docs vs. Glocks Ruling, 11th Circuit, 2014

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4 Responses for “Florida’s “Docs vs. Glocks” Bill Wins Federal Appeals Court Approval in 2-1 Ruling”

  1. Outsider says:

    I don’t believe doctors need to know this. First of all, if this is supposedly a medical question, then the response will be put in the patient’s medical records. As we all know, the federal government has mandated that all medical records go electronic, and the federal government has access to these records. Now let’s suppose it’s the doctor’s opinion that the person should not have these weapons. There is now a clear method for confiscating an individual’s guns. This is simply a back door method of forming a national gun registry. There is no medical reason that I can think of they need this information.

  2. A.S.F. says:

    …Yes, a Doctor should have NO right to question the advisibility of a patient with a serious mental illness or Dementia to own a gun…Nor, should that Doctor feel legally comfortable asking family members about whether a gun is available to be used by a family member who might be a danger to self or others (because, as we all know, people with negative intent always tell the truth when they think someone is going to put a halt to their actions.). And let’s further put Doctors and medical professionals in a bind by making them mandated reporters of abuse without giving them any right to ask about whether there are guns in the picture. Makes perfect sense. God Bless America.

  3. Steve Wolfe says:

    Responsible gun owners don’t go to their doctor to get medical “advice” about gun ownership, so that’s a misleading premise. Has the practice of medicine recently expanded into the “treatment” of the practice of the 2nd Amendment? The doctor would record the information affirming the patient has weapons. From that point it becomes electronically retrievable information. I can’t imagine the Federal Government actually looking (hack…cough…) at those records, though….it’s never happened before, after all….

    Do we really want to go there? As mucked up as the government is, do we want them to have access to any more personal information? I recall a cry from the past, “Stay out of my bedroom!” Since the government has already displayed the willingness to use available technology to spy on us, I would tend to distrust the government all the more, and resist accommodating the government with easy data mining. Let your imagination wander over what that could lead to.

    Certainly there is a need to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally or emotionally compromised people. But have doctors successfully prevented any violent acts because of an encounter with a patient who displayed instability? If there is no data about that, then does that really have anything to do with the collection of the information about guns in the patient’s home? Or is it for “other” purposes?

    This link is for the doctor/patient shooting at a PA hospital two days ago:

    Can we just get on with keeping guns out of the hands of people we already know to have mental health issues? There must be a reason this doctor was armed. Polling every patient about gun ownership at doctors offices doesn’t address this issue.

  4. Raul Troche says:

    Don’t the courts have better things to do?

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