Federal Judge Halts Florida Law Prohibiting Doctors from Talking about Guns

Thursday, July 05, 2012
(photo: Seattle Weekly)
Florida’s attempt to stop doctors from discussing gun ownership with patients has been blocked by a federal judge.
The legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, was directed primarily at pediatricians, who routinely ask new parents if they have guns at home and if they’re stored safely. Pediatricians say they ask about guns in homes in order to prevent accidental injuries. But the National Rifle Association (NRA) argued that the doctors were interfering with the right to bear arms.
Following on her preliminary injunction from last fall, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke decided the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act in 2011 (aka the “Docs vs. Glocks” law) was unconstitutional. She said the prohibition violated physicians’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
“What is curious about this law—and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech—is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, was pleased with Cooke’s ruling. “Guns in the home are a proven deadly risk,” he told the Miami Herald. “Guns kill eight children every day. The government cannot tell us or our doctors that we are prohibited from discussing the deadly risks posed by guns.”
Supporters of the law intend to appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
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