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Court: Florida doctors can ask patients about guns

February 17, 2017 at 6:49 am 15 News
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MIAMI (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor.

“The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in President Donald Trump’s search for a Supreme Court nominee, said in a separate concurring opinion that the First Amendment must protect all points of view.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” he wrote. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

The law was passed in 2011 and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott with strong support from the National Rifle Association. It was the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in other states.

Supporters in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature insisted it was necessary because doctors were overstepping their bounds and pushing an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment agenda.

The law was challenged almost immediately by thousands of physicians, medical organizations and other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of free speech in what became known as the “Docs v. Glocks” case. A legal battle has raged in the courts since then, with several conflicting opinions issued.

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

The 11th Circuit noted that Florida lawmakers appeared to base the law on “six anecdotes” about physicians’ discussions of guns in their examination rooms and little other concrete evidence that there is an actual problem. And doctors who violated the law could face professional discipline, a fine or possibly loss of their medical licenses.

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

The NRA and Florida attorneys had argued that under the law doctors could ask about firearms if the questions were relevant to a patient’s health or safety, or someone else’s safety, and that the law was aimed at eliminating harassment of gun owners. But the 11th Circuit said there was no evidence of harassment or improper disclosure of gun ownership in health records, as law supporters also claimed.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are psychologically unable to choose another medical provider, just as they are permitted to do if their doctor asks too many questions about private matters like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, or drug use,” the court ruled.

The ruling did determine that some parts of the law could remain on the books, such as provisions allowing patients to decline to answer questions about guns and prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums for people who lawfully own guns.

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami for a ruling that follows the 11th Circuit’s direction. The case could, however, also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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15 Comments

  1. backpacker February 17, 2017 at 8:33 am

    If a Doctor asked me whether or not I owned a gun, I would tell him that it is none of his business and to take his question and shove it! Many of these modern Doctors I have (as opposed to the Doctors I had in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who were real Doctors) are now into all this psychology BS, instead of being doctors trying to diagnose a physical problem. I am sick and tired of all of this psychology / sociology politically correct garbage! If a person is mentally ill send him to a psychiatrist. I want a Medical Doctor to practice medicine when he sees me, not practice this psychology garbage/ politically correct garbage!

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    • columba February 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Exactly. The law may say they have to ask us, but no law says we have to answer, except to say we prefer not to answer. (Fifth Amendment, anyone?) In fact, in my doctor’s questionnaire there’s a “Prefer not to answer” option for almost every other personal matter, from race to ethnic identification to marital status to income.

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    • ltuser
      ltuser February 17, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      And if all doctors in FL can do this, exactly where the hell do they think patients can go to ‘find another doctor if they don’t wanna answer it’?? Move to another state?

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  2. odayterrence February 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

    With doctors, we are told to always be honest to them since it’s to our benefit health-wise. Well…guess what, doctors? I will happily and readily LIE, LIE, LIE to you when you delve into areas I consider none of your business. I won’t tell you it’s none of your business and shove it (no matter how much I may want to) since you’ll assume I’m a gun owner and enter it into my (completely open to government) medical records. I’ll simply tell you I don’t own any firearms and let you go through your Anti-2nd Amendment spiel. And I won’t feel the least bit of guilt. For in today’s world, for the law-abiding citizen, we’ve seen the best life-saving medicine be a few grams of lead used at the right time and place. Even the threat by the citizen to use that life-saving medicine has worked wonders. So…to ensure my continued access to that life-saving medicine I’ll happily lie to the doctor seeking to harm my health and rights.

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  3. oldschool7 February 17, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Hate to lie, would here simply because I cannot find any circumstances that my PHYSICIAN would need to know this information, my PSYCHOLOGIST, maybe, if he thinks I am a suicide risk. Hell, I had suicide awareness and prevention training when I was a principal, does that mean I can ask my teachers if they own a gun? Anyone who answers YES, gets what they deserve.

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  4. darby February 17, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I leave the question blank. When they ask, I just ask them if a BB gun counts. That usually ends the conversation.

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  5. EasTexan February 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

    After the end of ACA go to another doc.

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    • ltuser
      ltuser February 17, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      Assuming you can find one that is not ‘on board with questioning you about your guns’..

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  6. baitfish February 17, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Ask the “Dr.” if they own/use a dildo/vibrator, for sexual purposes. When their jaw drops open, and they stammer for a response, look them in the eye and say, next question please.

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    • ltuser
      ltuser February 17, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      Several years back over on the mil times forums where we had a discussion about this, one guy mentioned he went in to get an abscess on his toe (infected ingrowing toenail), and when he was asked about his gun ownership levels, he asked that exact question BACK to the doc (do you own a dildo), and when the doc said “What concern of yours is it if i do or not”, he turned right back and said “THE EXACT same thing can be said about what concern is it of yours or not if i own a bloody gun since it has exactly NO IMPACT on the fact i have a damn abscess!”

      He said after that rant, the doc looked perplexed that a patient dared question hi like that…

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    • drillbeast February 18, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Better yet, ask them if they have ever sexually abused any of their patients.
      I feel this is a much more relevant question for making an assessment of their ability to dispense healthcare.

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  7. Alice Cokefair February 17, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Choose another doctor? Like Obamacare didn’t do enough to limit doctor selection, and like Obamacare doesn’t mean a 3 month wait to even MEET a doctor for the first time? Choose another doctor “Like you would if the doctor asks too many questions about sexual activity, alcohol or drug use”? ALL of those activities have health consequences, and should be questioned during a health exam. Asking about firearms is just another govt “nose under the tent” now that Obama has made our health records part of the government and open for their access.

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  8. fdrdocent February 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    I seem to remember when this issue came up when W was president, with the VA doctors. W allowed as how the doctors couldn’t ask.
    Regardless, whether or not I have a firearm, has absolutely nothing to do with my physical or mental health.

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  9. DrGadget February 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    “The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor.”

    They aren’t even being consistent. How about that gay couple suing the florist?

    LINK

    The gay couple could have simply found another florist. But that wasn’t their point. They wanted to destroy the florist. If I have a family doctor, I don’t want to go find another one. I chose this one for a reason. I might anyway because of the gun thing, but it should be my choice.

    The liberal activists judges are taking up both sides of the fence, choosing ways to push their extreme agenda as far and as painfully as possible.

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  10. ltuser
    ltuser February 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Gadget, of course they talk out of both sides of their sphincters…

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