Florida’s Docs v. Glocks Law Protects Doctors’ Free Speech Rights

Doctors, Guns and Harassment
Doctors, Guns and Harassment
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)-  As the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals prepares for the latest round in the legal battle over Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act (FOPA), one issue is being addressed in depth for the first time.

An amicus curiae brief just filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms shows the real reason that Floridians were outraged when an Ocala, Florida pediatrician in 2010 kicked a young mother and her baby out of his practice for daring to object to his inappropriate questioning about guns.

The brief’s core principle is this—doctors should not take advantage of their position of trust, superior knowledge, and power over a patient to push a political agenda of gun control.

In a commentary two California pediatricians protest the idea that the doctor-patient relationship is unequal, especially in the age of instant online access to medical information.  Doctors welcome the empowerment of patients with the vast resource of medical information on the internet.  Dr. Google is our friend too.

And of course it’s politically incorrect to suggest that the doctor-patient relationship is by its nature unequal.  But if it isn’t unequal, why do Americans so vigorously hold every doctor to a higher standard of conduct?  It’s because at some point a sick or injured and often frightened patient puts his life in her hands.  The relationship is not coercive.  The inequality has nothing to do with innate human value. It’s just a fact made necessary by the gravity of the job.

Accordingly, medical societies’ official policies and state laws strictly define acceptable boundaries of physician conduct.  Courts give great latitude to patients to haul a doctor into court on the slightest accusation of malpractice or misconduct. A wrongfully sued doctor has, in reality, little or no recourse under the law.

Medical boards are authorized to investigate patient complaints, forcing the doctor to hire counsel to defend his reputation.  Business rating services like Yelp allow patients to trash their physicians, who are then prevented by privacy laws from responding.

A doctor involved in any romantic relationship with a patient faces a range of punishments, from loss of license (and livelihood) to jail time.  All of these sanctions are intended to protect patients and to put them on an equal footing with the doctor.

Opponents of the Florida law build their case on an objection that the law violates the First Amendment free speech right of doctors treating their patients.  But the simple text of the law debunks this claim: “a health care practitioner or health care facility that in good faith believes that this information [about firearms] is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others, may make such a verbal or written inquiry.”

In other words, the law gives almost total freedom to the doctor.  The key word is “relevant.”  And that is where doctors, especially pediatricians, got themselves into trouble serious enough that the Florida legislature reined them in.

Doctors started talking to their patients about guns in the 1990s, prompted by policies of their specialty medical organizations.  The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and especially the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched deliberate campaigns against gun ownership. Those policies included urging gun bans, regulating guns as consumer products, banning most rifles designed and made after the Korean War, and even urging doctors to pressure families to get rid of their guns. The AAP even worked with the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, the educational branch of Handgun Control, Inc., then the leading gun ban lobby.  Handgun Control, Inc. is known today as the Brady Campaign.

Even now the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on guns endorses as best practice “the absence of guns from homes and communities.”  This is a more or less clear recommendation that families should give up one of their enumerated civil rights, the right to own firearms. Nor do medical school and residency include any genuine firearm safety training that might give doctors the slightest claim to authority on the subject.

It’s no wonder that Floridians were furious at meddling doctors who see themselves as foot soldiers in organized medicine’s culture war on gun owners.  Your doctor’s job is to help you heal and thrive, not to shame and harass you for exercising one of your civil rights.

Timothy Wheeler
Timothy Wheeler

 

—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation. www.drgo.us

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Glennon
Glennon
5 years ago

Another example of the long arm of the nanny state and the amassing of info on legal gun owners.

NutherChans
NutherChans
5 years ago

One of the many reasons I won’t live in FL. My answer to that question would be “That’s absolutely none of your business”.

abelhorn
abelhorn
5 years ago

When do we stop running and turn on them
either we believe in the Constitution or we do not
WHEN DO WE DRAW A LINE WE MEAN ?

Thomas J Crowley
Thomas J Crowley
5 years ago
Reply to  abelhorn

Looks like the lines in the sand we draw are like obummer lines with Iran.

Michael
Michael
5 years ago

We are all smarter than they are. Never become offended by or react negatively when your health “professional” inappropriately asks about firearms. Simply smile and reply, “No – there are no firearms in our home, but we do like to fish? Is that OK?” Then find another doctor! Otherwise, your angry remarks will result in a negative comment in your medical chart that will stay in cyberspace forever. We’re smarter so stay cool.

Michael
Michael
5 years ago

My wife and I raised five healthy, intelligent, productive, and law abiding citizens in an American home environment and we always had firearms around. Rifles, shotguns, pistols – all of these “tools” were available for use in a safe and appropriate way. All my children were instructed in the proper and safe handling of firearms (and none of my children erroneously call an AR15 an “assault weapon” or refer to magazines as “clips”). Firearms safety was ingrained in my children from an early age and thirty years later we have never suffered from any accidental discharge of a firearm, any… Read more »

sicknTired
sicknTired
5 years ago

That’s for private practice, so does that hold true for ER rooms. Would they perhaps grill a car accident victim or a sexualy assaulted teen about if they own a gun while experiencing trauma. This whole matter is better served to the dogs. At some point your vet may ask the same questions. Terror organizations would love to pour their own funding into such bills to expedite the process of disarming the state’s. This is all classic government overreach and needs to e halted and fast. Soon this idiocy will show up on the HEB credit card scanner before you… Read more »