Monday, February 20, 2017

Federal appeals court rules in favor of Florida doctors asking patients if they have firearms

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that Florida doctors have the First Amendment right to ask patients if they own firearms, David Ovalle reports for the Miami Herald. The Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act in 2011, also known as "Docs vs. Glocks" was created by the Republican-controlled state Legislature after a couple "complained that a doctor asked them about guns and they refused to answer. The physician refused to see them anymore."

"The law includes a series of restrictions on doctors and other healthcare providers, requiring them to refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the physicians believe in 'good faith' that the information is 'relevant' to medical care or safety," Ovalle writes. "The statute also sought to prevent doctors from entering information about gun ownership in a house hold into medical records, and discriminating against patients or 'harassing' them because of owning firearms."

After the law went into effect, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, on behalf of a group of more than 11,000 individual Florida doctors, filed a lawsuit, Ovalle writes. "A Miami federal judge in 2012 ruled in their favor, saying the legislation was based on anecdotal information and unfounded conjecture." In 2014 a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to reverse the decision. But the plaintiffs asked that the entire appeals court consider the case, and the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week overturned the decision by a count of 8-3. The law, which is supported by the National Rifle Association, could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but its constitutional questions could be too weak.

Appeals Court Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote, "There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patient’ Second Amendment rights. ... None of the anecdotes cited by the Florida Legislature involved the improper disclosure or release of patient information concerning firearm ownership."

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